Tag Archive: Enitharmon


Newton’s Revolution

Enitharmon sleeps for 1800 years, only to be awoken by Newton’s blowing of the trump. In order to understand Newton’s role in this scene, we must first understand Enitharmon’s slumber. Enitharmon’s slumber begins with the birth of Christ and ends 1800 years later, at the beginning of the French Revolution. Also, her slumber is highly sexually charged: it is described as a “female dream,” and it in, “Man was a Dream” (101). With this knowledge, we can assume Enitharmon’s slumber represents traditional Christian doctrine, in which female sexuality is repressed and seen as a sin.

Why then does Blake decide to have a champion of scientific thinking blow the trump that awakens Enitharmon from this repressive Christian doctrine? Blake rejects Newton’s doctrine because it does not acknowledge creativity or passion. Instead, it attempts to explain worldly phenomena through reason and experimentation. Blake’s use of Newton to awaken Enitharmon revolves around Newton’s involvement in the Scientific Revolution—Blake does not agree with Newton’s doctrine, yet he helped lead a revolution that attacked the current doctrine of thinking in Europe. Newton, therefore, is awakening Enitharmon from her slumber in order to begin a new revolution against traditional sexual repression in Christian doctrine. In this way, Blake paints Newton as someone to be emulated—someone who could think for himself and create his own system of belief—even though Blake disagrees with Newton’s scientific thought process.

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Before addressing the trump that awakes Enitharmon, we must first understand the significance of the slumber.  At this point in our study of Blake we are very familiar with his opposition of repetitive action, leaving individuals to thoughtlessly follow a predetermined pattern.  Within this framework, Enitharmon’s “slumber” represents her enslavement in the dull round and corresponding creative dormancy.  Prior to the age of revolution, Blake’s vision of Europe is of a people following the motions of the dull round in the work, social, religious, and political spheres.  His hope for an enlivened revolutionary period in Europe would sweep through each of these areas to awaken individual thought and the intellectual consciousness of entire nations.

Blake vastly simplifies the intellectual and historical context before 1800 into one period of inactivity.  He then introduces Newton to usher in the revolutionary period as a new age of individual creativity and a revival of the poetic genius.  Blake’s relationship with scientific thinkers complicates his choice of Newton as the herald of the new era.  Blake often resists scientists as advocates of a limited range of thought, strictly confined by reason.  Though his subscribers may fall into this pattern, Newton himself is an innovator.   Blake, therefore, presents Newton not as a model for a system of belief but as a model for a kind of behavior and discovery.

By operating within Blake’s mythology, we can extend this metaphor to represent Spiritual Beauty (Damon 124).  Accordingly, Blake’s portrait of the new revolutionary period is then a spiritual revival of the nation.  While he is most prominently known as a scientist and mathematician, Newton also considered himself a prophet (Enlightening Science) and conducted radical theological research.  Newton’s position then provides credibility to Blake’s claim that every individual has the capacity for prophecy.  This “Trump of the last doom” then comes from the prophetic position, and signals the coming revolution as an apocalyptic second coming.

Works Cited:

“Enlightening Science.” Isaac Newton on Religion. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.

To answer the question of why Enitharmon’s eighteen hundred year-old slumber is described as a “female dream,” we must first establish exactly what her dream is. There are three important facts about her dream:

1)      It begins with the birth of Christ and lasts for eighteen hundred years until the French Revolution.

2)      It is a dream of female domination of men: it begins with Enitharmon calling on her sons so “That Woman, lovely Woman! May have dominion” (8/5:3).

3)      It entails the introduction of ideas about the immortality of female sexuality: Enitharmon tells Rintrah and Palamabron to “tell the human race that Woman’s love is Sin” (8/5:5).

As it lasts from the birth of Christ to the French Revolution, Enitharmon’s dream is pre-French Revolution Christianity. However, the depiction that follows is entirely about the consequences of a woman’s choice rather than male subjugation of women. The description of this period as a “female dream” suggests that women desire dominion over men, but chose to achieve it through underhand methods. Therefore, they merely experienced the illusion of being in charge. This is emphasised by the facts that Enitharmon has to call upon her sons to enact her wish of female dominion and that she sleeps during the apparent reign of women. Paradoxically, Enitharmon is passive when she changes the nature of all humanity.

The dream is a female one because it is about female desire. As Enitharmon is “the Eternal female” from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the Great Mother and occasionally plays the part of Eve, she problematically stands for womankind (Damon 125). She is aware that her actions will affect all women because she says that “from her childhood shall the little female/Spread nets in every secret path” (8/5:7-8). So she represents a female desire to subjugate men while also embodying Eve’s sabotage her own sex and the human race. She is depicted as the one responsible for propagating negative ideas about female sexuality. Blake is suggesting that female desire is powerful and dangerous. However, we also suspect that Enitharmon is confused about what she wants for women.

In informing the human race that women’s love is a Sin, Enitharmon denies women the ability to use overt erotic capital and limits their lives to performing underhand romantic conquests. This evokes Mary Wollstonecraft’s critique of these female manners as destructive to women’s emotional and intellectual development. Blake alludes to this both in his description of the female as “little” and her spreading nets in secret paths. However, in making Enitharmon responsible for why women must do this, Blake suggests that such artifice is inherent to female nature. Enitharmon is underhand in establishing female dominion because she tricks humanity and gets two men to do it on her behalf. In presenting this depiction of female desire undermined by female self-sabotage, Blake presents a female dream as the illusion of female power. What troubles me is that this illusion is presented as resulting from the desires of women rather than the desires of men.

Works cited

Damon, S. Foster. A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. Hanover and England: University Press of New England, 1988. Print.

The Nightmare of Female Power

Enitharmon’s “female dream” is not the first mention of the goddess’s eighteen-hundred-year reign on the earth: a few stanzas previously, Enitharmon expresses her intent to have “dominion” over “the human race”: “Who shall I call? Who shall I send? / That Woman, lovely Woman! May have dominion?” (Plate 8, line 3; Plate 8, line 5; Plate 8, lines 2-3) Her plan to dominate mankind is clearly premeditated and involves summoning two of her sons, as well as their nameless female counterparts, to carry out her plot on the earth. A definite method of dominance exists in the “spread[ing] of nets in every secret path” by “the little female”: from their youth, women are to serve as the forbidden objects of desire by men, for Enitharmon’s plan of conquest rightly perceives that men are easily ensnared by sexual attraction that is denied consummation (Plate 8, line 9; Plate 8, line 8). For in Blake’s worldview, suppressed desire (particularly sexual desire) is the ultimate means by which humanity’s imaginative link to the divine is controlled and repressed.

Enitharmon’s plan is evidently successful, for an eighteen-hundred-year period passes in which “Man was a Dream” (Plate 12, line 2). The end of this tyrannical period is marked by Orc’s successful bid for revolution on the earth, and thus we may equate man with freedom of desire and woman with desire’s repression. Openness and liberty in desire are termed a “Dream” because they exist only in the imagination during the period in which false chastity, counterfeit modesty, and the tenet that “Woman’s love is Sin” reign over humanity (Plate 8, line 5). According to Blake, it is this imagination, associated with the figure of Orc, that eventually overcomes woman’s rule and allows for the freedoms of desiring, creating, and acting that, to Blake, are the ultimate marks of mankind’s “poetic genius.”

The “female dream,” then, is the antithesis of Man’s Dream: it represents the exploitation and control of desire perpetuated by Enitharmon’s system. Unlike the male “Dream,” the female “dream” is not capitalized and is thus symbolic of systematic, repressive traits and actions associated with created society rather than the natural, creative elements that exist because of the divine. It is not a positive, imaginative state of mind like that Blake advocates; rather, it is the hazy existence under authority that is much like the literal dreams one has during sleep. Such dreams are without meaning and, unlike the Dreams produced by desire, contain no implications for one’s mortal or immortal life. Clearly life under the influence of the female dream is, according to the poem, a fuzzy and unreal experience in which the manipulative power of women dominates. Freedom occurs when woman’s authority is revoked and the Dream of man is restored: in this sense “Europe a Prophecy” is a strikingly anti-feminist vision of how the world should look.