Tag Archive: Milton


The engraving from William Blake’s Plate 49 depicting Los engaged in sodomy is a non-secular subject in which Blake explicitly alludes to (but does not name) the tyrannical government in power- most likely of Napoleon’s, but openly assigned to treat authorities such as our current Trump presidency. Along with the anthropocentric charges, “Who creeps into State Government like a catterpiller to destroy,” (Blake 202) this is the first time he directly compares beasts to the government, unambiguously describing the animal-like phenomenological action of “creeping,” and introducing simile structured against the sentence object, “to destroy.” Blake introduces Los as apparently being fellated by the authorial self. The editorial footnote describes Blake’s own transgressing images from Milton Book I to Book II, which is an interesting digression due to not only Blake’s own presence in the story, but also because the content of his process- on being destroyed ironically from one book to become part of the sequence or essence of another. Another detail that seemed out of place was the background of Plate 47 in which a woman with big, wavy, hair surrounds Los, within the circumference of his halo. Is Oothoon gazing upon the male bodies performing, perhaps for erotic desires?

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Los’s left arm curls back into a thinking position, his hand covering Oothoon’s face. This relates to Los’ love for revolution, “To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albion’s covering […] To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration,” (202). Both Los and Oothoon are juxtaposed versus the Enlightenment thinkers, and described much in the same way Blake has chosen to draw her, as requiring a deconstructing of layers in order to see her, to “cast off,” the hand of Los, and while Blake’s conventional critique of Royal Academy influencers and thinkers of the French Revolution, in consideration of his previous demonizations of regicide and anthropomorphic metaphors about both the Church and State, is not presented here in the usual compartmentalization by images of war and in descriptions of cosmic connections between Los, the author and the various geographic pinpoints to retell Blake’s dreamlike vision of how “Before Ololon Milton stood & perceivd the Eternal Form,” (Blake 200), other relativism to Milton and Blake’s allegorical characters represent London’s existence and subtending, religious themes which form the plot-like conventions of systemic storybuilding. The plates enabled for Blake a mimetic exploration, and thus the ultimate nationalistic gesture in which he envokes “Inspiration” with a capital ‘I,’ alongside traditional, religious imagery, while drawing this Inspiration to visually depict males performing oral sex acts in conjunction with the “State Government,” (202) and explicitly actualizes a metaphysical, self-annhilation using homoerotic imagery that evokes Milton’s biographical trials and the sense of Los’ war in Jerusalem, while simultaneously persuading the more abstract and conscious limits of his (French) reader’s political and social perceptions with an overtly associated logos of symbolic, non-fertile sexual intercourse. The images falling under Victorian censorship need to be re-examined, including Oothoon’s overlooked, feminine presence. It is said that ‘the devil is in the details,’ where does Milton lie in this engraving of Blake’s threesome with Los and Oothoon? The males in Plate 49 are being subjected to the matriarchal gazing which satirizes Europe’s war with Jerusalem, and under the shadows of Beulah, subjects Blake to not only fellatiating Los himself/a simulation of Blake’s political imagination/America’s own prophet, but also to the actual treatment of readership for his representing in negative connatations the personal notions of liberty through pubically demonstrated symbolic gestures, generally thought not to be displayed in either religious or political institutions. Blake’s genius is sensuous, and not to be confounded by the devout, religious practices which frequently swayed inspiration for the author in the eighteenth century.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

 

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 “Milton will utterly consume us & thee our beloved Father” 

In Milton: Book the Second, Blake finds himself in the garden. Ololon meets Blake and then eventually finds Milton, and we find out that she is Milton’s feminine self. Blake express that Ololon’s position as a virgin is one that puts her in an “annihilable” state. And only by giving up her virginity is she free. Therefore, negation is necessary. This negation to preserve the opposite of Ololon turns out to be Milton. The negation is described as:

a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway

The false body means entrapment and annihilation, and destruction to the immortal. So, to deny negation is to remain unscathed by one’s sexual potential. The ultimate sexual potential at this time would in fact be male-to-male oral sex. In the later line, the need for nudity and for undressing lineaments that are like ‘arks & curtains’.

These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains

The ‘sexual garments’ hide the ‘human lineaments’ as illustrated in the image below, although, the person getting orally satisfied does appear to be wearing a small underwear-like garment. The background appears to be a sun because of the red flames encircling the yellow circle. However, the inside of the sun, where the yellow circle appears also has what appears to resemble many vaginal labias. Perhaps this could be a tie into another sexual organ besides what we assume is the penis, but perhaps the presence of the vagina is also an indication of the birth of this sexual act(the male-to-male oral sex). The person giving the fellatio is on their knees (which isn’t out of the ordinary), but the position in which they have their body facing forward and their head turned around is odd. The way that they are also looking into the other person’s eyes is a bit odd given the awkward position that they are in.

The identity of both of the participants is also ambiguous because the face of on figure isn’t visible since he is looking up. This brings into question the identities of the participants. An idea that came to me is that it could be Milton and Milton. Perhaps the ultimate way to not self annihilate is masturbation, which is sinful in even more ways that just plain male-to-male oral sex. However, I also think masturbation would indicate the ego/self righteousness. Another thought was that it was Ololon the “six fold Miltonic female”, but that would take away the significance of male-on-male oral sex. Another darker thought that arose was that the figures are either Milton and all of his followers, or (bear with me here) Milton and Blake. Given that throughout the first book, Blake is imitating the things he blames Milton of (ie. using women as objects, feeding into his own ego). It also makes sense to me because Blake is the person that Ololon goes to in order to be redirected to Milton. Therefore, Blake is perhaps acting as a link or maybe in more sexual terms: a vagina for Ololon to connect to Milton. Either way, this is extremely progressive for the time, and I had to stop myself from photoshopping Milton and Blake’s heads to this image.

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-Beyanira Bautista

William Blake’s Milton “Book the First” is introduced with images of Beulah and her daughters. This reminded me of the image of Oothoon surrounded by both her tormented lover and rapist. 

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Milton’s emanations are for Blake the earthly contradictions beheld in the “heavens of Albion,” (148). Death and annihilation are central themes for Blake, but as he wants us to envision a rape in describing Milton’s work, what does this mean for his subjective idealization and gazing upon the female body? The women are described as muses who’s experiences inspire the poetic genius. Within Blake’s system he realizes Christian morality in telling them to “record the journey of immortal Milton,” (148) in doing so attributes a normative role to the sex of the allegorical women characters; however, we also know from the Blake Dictionary that in Beulah, Blake also realizes “God’s favor” (Damon, Blake “BEULAH”, loc 1814) in terms of negotiating women’s sexual freedom, “thro’ your Realms of soft sexual delusions,/ Of varied beauty, to delight the wanderer and repose/ His burning thirst & freezing hunger!” (148). The union of the sexes that exists in the earthly, Beulah anticipates the “delight” of being raped.

Blake introduces the “Spectres of the dead” as a way of treating the problematic employment of female virtue-signaling, and thus satirizes Milton, a man who himself was arrested for political and social dissent, as a way of critiquing systems and the “false tongue” which “vegetated” the complacent minds of the French Revolution, both before and during the rise of Napoleon and Cromwell in England and Europe. Blake signifies “Paradise” and “Jerusalem” in naming the historical epoch, “Beneath your land of shadows,” (148) and also alludes to regicide, “of its sacrifices, and Its offerings,” (148), but this only comes after Blake evokes Palestine, the restored land of God’s empire, in forcing readers to confront the violent imagery of the daughters and their so-called, inspiring freedom. Why does Blake describe Milton’s self-annihilation? The alternative, which was describing Milton’s demise through political assassination, would have been perceived less effectively. The more material images of “descending” power, “nerves of my right arm,” and “portals of my brain,” are employing visceral and anatomical allusions to mock religion- as Milton’s Paradise Lost also describes Dante’s descending Satan’s upside-down limbs. Blake proceeds with a  “curse,” describing in biting tone reactions to Milton, “even till Jesus […] Became its prey […] and an atonement,” (148). Blake has a problem with how Milton is treated, but by mythologizing Christianity, “Jesus, the image of the Invisible God,” (148) he replaces modern treatment of the poet with the equal treatment Christians give to Satan casted down to earth. Religion and literature are intersecting objects of Blake’s social satire and history-myth system-building, but this cannot excuse the poet/author/engraver from subjecting the female body “Of terror & mild moony lustre,” (148) to his idealized representations of revolution, liberty, and inspiration, for male gazing, or for “the Poet’s Song,” (148). Political and religious expression is guaranteed in nations such as eighteenth-century England which so frequently overlooked the existences of individuals such as women and children, or merely saw them as contemporary subjects in the patriarchal traditions of white literature dominating continental Europe.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

In William Blake’s Milton: Book the First, Blake critiques John Milton’s intents in Paradise Lost. Despite, his admiration for Milton, Blake believes that Milton’s idea that relegating revolutionary energy was diabolic. Instead, he thinks that was diabolic was Milton’s “selfhood” or self righteousness, to put in other terms. In Line 8-11 he states:

The Eternal Great Humanity Divine planted his Paradise
And in it caus’d the Spectres of the Dead to take sweet forms
In likeness of himself. Tell also the False Tongue! vegetated
Beneath your land of shadows

Blake is both mockingly (and maybe sincerely?) calling Milton “the eternal great humanity divine”, and interestingly using the adjective ‘to plant’ in reference to Paradise Lost. Maybe who he is calling “the eternal great humanity divine” could also be god because he is describing the planting of eden, or creation. The ‘sweet forms’ that the spectres of the dead link the spiritual world and the physical word if we take ‘sweet forms’ to be something related to fruits(plants). The ghost of the dead then are taking likeness of Milton. Unless he is taking the likeness of the ghost of the dead? It’s interesting that the “False Tongue” is “vegetated” beneath the land of shadows. In this line, Blake again creates connections between the spiritual world (land of shadows) and something that is vegetates (or of the physical world). Los and Emitharmon oppose Milton which causes The Shadowy Female to oppose Milton, in this case the shadows mentioned in this passage could be in connection to this character, and her godliness.
Blake is also pointing out in this passage that the mistake Milton made was make Paradise Lost an endeavor that is self righteous. However, this is ironic because he wrote a work titled Milton, which gives Milton even more reason to be self righteous. Blake also participates in this ‘selfhood’ that is so harmful by writing his own work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
-Beyanira Bautista

In plate 2 of William Blake’s “Milton: Book the First”, the oppressed poetic Genius is revealed within the renowned poet John Milton, author of Paradise Lost. Blake writes how the poetic Genius is called upon in Milton through various physical awareness, specifically focusing on tactile imagery (that of touch), to highlight this. Blake mentions how the Poet’s Song is evoked through “soft sexual delusions” (3), “burning thirst & freezing hunger!… descending down the Nerves of my right arm” (5-6), in which a poet can conjure their imagination through visceral physical reactions in which ideas “Come into my hand” (5) and move down the arm and into the page. This focus on the physical touch is one that is hypersexual: it is “of terror & mild moony lustre” (3) that forces the poet into a frenzy of lust for art. This focus on the hypersexual and tactile imagery then presents a paradox. If interaction with the art is a sexual one that allows humanity to engage with “Paradise” (8), then why is Blake critiquing an esteemed poet for being “Unhappy tho in heav’n” (18), and failing to reach salvation, instead “himself perish” (20).

The conclusion of this plate then takes a startling turn, focusing on “A Bard” (22) who recounts this paradox to the reader, a meta commentary perhaps even self-referential to Blake himself. The rest of poem is focused on the salvation of Milton, and his deliverance from Urizen. This is perhaps why Milton needs “to go down the self annihilation and eternal death”, as explicated in Book 1, plate 15, line 22. Milton was bound and unhappy in his poetic Genius, which is why he must experience death to overcome this.

-Sara Nuila-Chae

Milton martyrs himself as the savior of his people, which is ironic because he doesn’t agree on the ideas of war or any type of heroic characteristic for that matter. However, he’s being forced into the eternal death because God is inactive in the fight against satan; he takes off his robe of promise, that is, of righteousness, relieving himself from the oath of god (162). It’s evident that he does not want to break from god, as he asks “O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come?/Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death” (162).

The situation at hand forces Milton to go down into self annihilation: satan is wreaking havoc in his entrance to earth, as he creates Seven deadly Sins on his infernal scroll (156). He also creates cruel punishments “with thunders of war & trumpets sound, with armies of disease… saying ‘I am God alone'” (156). Note also the sibilance used in lines 23-24, when describing satan’s actions: with thunder of war & trumpets sound, with armies of disease/Punishments & deaths mustered..” (156). This connects to image of satan being a serpent, as it creates a hissing sound. Also, the line is built of multiple multi-sllybalic words and cuts heavily into monosyllabic when satan speaks: “I am God/alone/There is no other!” (156); this creates a more urgent tone, truly making satan appear as powerful as god.

Milton of course realizes all of this and heeds the warning of the urgent tones, sounds, and beats, as he dives into eternal death.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

By now, I think we have figured out that Blake enjoys his “Genius” and that to retain his “Genius,” he must reside with Los in Hell. It seems that when Milton rose and claimed he was going to “Eternal Death.” He essentially means that he is abandoning the heavens.

“Then Milton rose up from the heavens of Albion ardorous!

The whole Assembly wept prophetic, seeing in Milton’s face

And in his lineaments divine the shades of Death & Ulro.

He took off the robe of the promise, & ungirdled himself from the

oath of God.” (pg.162)

Milton abandons the heavens by removing everything from him that is heavenly and embracing the divinity of Death. In Plate 15, starting from line 29, it is clear that Milton is embracing Hell and abandoning the heavens because he calls out that he is “that Evil One!” The irony can be seen in Milton himself because he is indeed Satan. Once in the Heavens, but falling into Hell. Plate 15 essentially talks about how Milton is embracing Hell and embracing his position as Satan because in his own actions of falling can be seen in the Bible when Lucifer first fell.

For next Wednesday (4/4), students will answer the following question:

Why does Milton need to “go down to self annihilation and eternal death”? (book 1, plate 15, line 22; page 162)

Because this poem is so dense and confusing, I ask that students provide a close reading of ONE of the six passages listed below that can help answer the question.  Please categorize under “The Last Judgment” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  This post is due by 8:30am this Wednesday, 4/4.

And please follow the five guidelines for close reading:

  1. Identify poetic voice, style, and form.
  2. Look for irony, paradox, ambiguity, and tension.
  3. Note those words, phrases, or images that seem odd or out- of-place.
  4. Note any important symbols, motifs, and themes.
  5. Is there anything missing from the text/artwork that should be there?

 

Key passages to focus on in Milton, first book:

1. Pl 2, lns. 1-24  (p. 148)

2. Pl 9, lns. 18-32 (p. 156)

3. Pl 15, lns. 51-41 (p. 162-63)

4. Pl 22, lns. 15-24 (p. 170)

5. Pl. 23, lns. 4-14 (p. 171)

6. Pl. 25, lns. 1-15 (p. 174)

Ololon’s False Self-Identification

In forming a contrary, two opposing ideas or being create a new, fuller meaning in their relationship to one another.  Despite Ololon’s self-identification as Milton’s contrary, she does not fulfill this purpose.  Notably, Olonon’s self-identification as Milton’s contrary comes in the form of a question; even this status depends on his validation.  The question is paradoxical:  Milton cannot confirm this idea without asserting his higher position in the power structure.  Her question therefore means that any acknowledgement of the contrary would, in fact, render it invalid.

Both in this passage, and in Book I of Milton, Ololon finds her identity in Milton; as she earlier “lamented for Milton with a great lamentation” (Plate 24, Book I) and now concludes that she must go to Eternal Death to rejoin him (Plate 49, Book II).  As such, while she appears to choose the course of annihilation for herself, it is not true self-annihilation as the decision is based exclusively on her ties to Milton.  By predicating her own choices on those of Milton, she places herself below him in power; the two figures cannot then form a functional contrary.  While Ololon gains significance and purpose from her association with Milton, Milton’s function remains unchanged by this relationship.

 

In answering the question of what precisely happens to Ololon, how such fits in, relates, to the rest of Milton: A Poem, I feel, firstly, a few prefatory remarks—a naming of parts or clarifying of terms—is required. I take “self-annihilation,” as it manifests, in the scope of Blake’s poem at face value, that is, meaning precisely what it says: “making the self into nothing” (its root word nihil being the Latin for “nothing”). The crucial distinction, I submit, is in the nuanced fact that is a process rather different and apart from destruction per se, though we tend to think it synonymous with such. In a certain line of thinking—admittedly Eastern—and with a little mental acrobatics, nothing (i.e., the absence of something, an existential lack) can be thought of as the potential for all things, as, say, blandness might be conceived of as not the lack of flavor but the potential for any. This is how self-annihilation—achieved in the dialectical struggle between Spectre (self, convention, reason) and Emanation (other, imagination, energy)—can allow one to enter into the higher synthesis, or reconciliation, of Divine Humanity. All that said, while the revelatory scene in Blake’s garden in Felpham seems to enact such a self-annihilation for Milton, it seems it only brings about a self-abnegation for Ololon. The movement feels to be one of a patriarchal possessiveness rather than total reciprocity or a complete, mutual meeting-in-the-middle. It all seems to be done for the benefit of Milton; Ololon is only peripheral or utilitarian—a means to an end—subsumed into Milton rather than unified with him. Though these last points are more impressions, things felts, than empirically verifiable points in the text.