Tag Archive: Satan


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. 

File Apr 04, 7 01 43 AM

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

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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

Milton and Satan, tragic heroes

In considering how Milton in William Blake’s Milton a Poem is like or unlike Satan, I first contemplate how to define the Satan figure that we are discussing. My first assumption is to compare Milton to his own Satan in Paradise Lost, but I quickly question this narrow interpretation. In my mind, there are at least three potential Satans to compare Milton to, a Christian Satan and some Blakian Satan. I will deal with this final version of Satan separately. Both Milton’s Satan and Satan in Christianity are fallen angels and thus I find the character of Milton in that he returns to Earth from Heaven. I also found Blake’s characterization of Milton similar to Milton’s characterization of Satan, detailed, confusing, and odd. Like Milton’s Satan, Blake’s Milton is complex and multidimensional. Milton is “synister” as he enters Blake through his left food, but simultaneously includes a redeemable qualities. Likewise, Milton’s Satan possesses humanizing characteristics that make him incredibly accessible to readers. I would argue that both are heroes of their respective works.  I am interested in exploring what a Blakian Satan would encompass. I find the Blakian Satan similar to the characters of Milton and Satan in that I imagine he would be equally complex. Moreover, all three have include contraries that exist simultaneously.

This post is in response to the question, “Why does Milton need to ‘go down to self-annihilation and eternal death’ (Plate 15, ln. 22; p. 162)?” In order to answer this question, I referenced the image on plate 15 in the Blake Archive. This particular image depicts Milton standing naked with what looks like his clothing torn in half in each of his hands. His head is surrounded by a halo of light, and the sun is depicted rising (or setting) behind him.

In order to decode this image in conjunction with the idea of Milton’s “self-annihilation and eternal death,” it is important to consider Blake’s views on Christ’s resurrection and the atonement. In the introduction to Milton a Poem, Blake refers to the death of Christ as “prey” to the “False Tongue… a curse, an offering, and an atonement” (lines 10-14, pg.148). Traditional Christian dogma posits that the atonement of Christ allows mankind to be forgiven of their sins and eventually have eternal life after physical death. Blake flips this idea on its head, claiming that in order to gain eternal life, mankind must first experience eternal death. This idea of contraries is a theme that runs throughout Blake’s works, and it is echoed through Milton’s need to experience eternal death before Judgment.

In addition, it is important to consider Blake’s beliefs about sin and its place in religion. In “The Bard’s Song,” Blake describes a scene in which Satan “created Seven deadly Sins drawing out his infernal scroll… To pervert the Divine voice in its entrance to the earth” (lines 21-23, pg. 156). This paints sin as a satanic creation meant to muddle the true meaning of religion, or the “Divine voice.” This falls in line with Blake’s theory of eternal death as necessary for salvation—in order to gain true “atonement,” we must cast off the concept of sin, and recognize its position as an antagonist to true religion.

This idea of casting off the idea of sin leads us back to the original image referenced in this post. In this image, it looks as if Milton has rent his clothing, exposing himself to the world. In the story of original sin in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve realize that they are naked after eating from the Tree of Knowledge. They immediately cover themselves, feeling embarrassed. When Adam and Eve learn of sin, they feel the need to clothe themselves—on the flipside, when Milton frees himself from the concept of sin; he no longer feels the need to clothe himself and therefore tears off his clothing.