Tag Archive: Ololon


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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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.

Milton and Male Dominance

In book 2, plate 48-49, lns. 35-39, 1-15 (p. 202-203), does Ololon’s recognition of herself and Milton as “Contraries” result in her self-annihilation? If so, explain how her self-annihilation is similar to or different from Milton’s.

The Blake dictionary, of course, has a great section on Ololon that will help answer the question of whether or not she self-annihilates, and if she does, in fact, self-annihilate, how it will compare to that of Milton’s. According to the text, Milton A Poem is the only work of Blake’s in which she appears. This makes sense, because she unwittingly symbolizes the “truth underlying [Milton’s] errors about women.”

As we have been able to glean from the introduction and footnotes of our edition of Milton, the popular British poet had his fair share of difficulties with the ladies. The Blake dictionary describes Milton’s relationship with women thus:

“Milton had never discovered Ololon—had never really understood the other sex. His honeymoon difficulties with his first wife had inspired his great tome on divorce; he loved his second wife at least to the extent of a great sonnet; his third wife was merely a housekeeper. It is well known how his three daughters mistreated their great father” (307).

His three wives plus the three daughters are Milton’s “Sixfold Emanation”, emanation being to Blake the “feminine portion, or ‘counterpart,’ of the fundamentally bisexual male” according to the Blake dictionary. Milton’s emanation was lost in his poor relationships with the women closest to him throughout his corporeal existence. Milton is the story of his return to earth to reclaim his lost emanation in the annihilation of his unfulfilled mortal self.

But in a close reading of the text, we will find that Ololon, too, self-annihilates, though in a manner far different from Milton. She begins the final movement towards her moment of annihilation with a short lament over the lackluster self-annihilation undergone by Milton, citing his horrible treatment of women: “Is this our Feminine Portion, the Six-fold Miltonic Female?/ Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man” (30-31) Eventually, Ololon divides into six parts and flees into the depths of Milton’s Shadow. This is her annihilation, which curiously brings her to be a part of Milton, the very figure whose shortcomings she happens to incarnate.

Ultimately, Milton’s self-annihilation fails to change the errors of his corporeal existence in his return to Earth. Ololon, as the voice of feminine criticism, shows in her own self-annihilation the dominance Milton maintains over her. The flight into “Milton’s Shadow” is likened to “a Dove upon the stormy Sea”(pl. 49 ln. 6). Here, Blake demonstrates the spiritual turmoil in which Milton remains after his failed self-annihilation.

I’m not sure how to figure Ololon’s self-recognition as Milton’s contrary into my reading, so if anyone can help me, I’d appreciate the insight.