Tag Archive: William Blake


 

   In Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “A Memorable Fancy,” is an eerie message in in which the Devil is basically tempting humanity to feel exaltation, even more so, by not just simply using our five senses, but finding a way to embody the same powers that God does to see, hear, touch, and smell the way that He can:
    “I saw a mighty Devil, folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock: with     corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived by the minds of men, and read by them on earth:—
       
How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,


Is an immense World of Delight, clos’d by your senses five?”


In the article by Martha Keith Schuchard, “Young William Blake and the    Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art,” she writes and cites: “Similarly, Moravian artists were Instructed to arouse and utilize all the senses, so the viewer would move beyond mere understanding and would fully participate in, fully sensate, Jesus’s experiences from crucifixion to resurrection [(Peucker, “Kreuzbilder” 169)]”(91).

As one can see, this would be exactly the process of which the Devil wanted everyone to approach life with.  To “experience,” so to speak, the senses to its fullest capacity, and to, therefore, become God.  The Devil is tempting us to fly and to feel a freedom that the “Bird” does.  By the Devil presenting it in a rhetorical form, it creates that Devil-on-your-shoulder curiosity to want to know the Everything that God does, and the Everything that nature does, as well.  Essentially, the Devil is saying that it is only by abandoning one’s imperfect human capacities, and channeling that of a greater power, however be it, that one will reach Genius.  In addition, Schuchard in citing Peucker, writes that “artists were instructed to arouse and utilize all the senses.”  Focusing on the word “arouse,” one can infer the connotation with that, which is to say that we our not only to go above and beyond our natural senses, but we are to gain such powers through sexual arousal.  Again, the message is: in order to reach a Genius (both passages are indicating that) we must deviate from Godly principles.


-Marcy Martinez

Advertisements

William Blake’s A Memorable Fancy has elements that speak to Moravian themes and ideas. Blake writes about a “Genius” that doesn’t necessarily align with the intellectual, academic, or conventional genius that’s taught at big universities. Blake’s is a different kind of genius, one Marsha Keith Schuchard writes about in her article titled “Young William Blake And the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art”. Schuchard writes, “Zinzendorf advocated that parents and children—of every age, class, and background—should participate in a rich Renaissance-Baroque culture of painting, poetry, and music. Remembering his own unhappy childhood, when he was sent away to boarding school and instructed by puritanical pedants, he urged the Moravians to home-school their children” (89). These Moravian ideas are upheld by Blake’s focus on a different kind of genius, one that is anti-institution–or boarding school led by “puritanical pedants”– and that embraces the senses. Additionally, Blake continues to move towards a different kind of knowledge, one that is facilitated by the emblematical.

The speaker says he arrived home “on the abyss of the five senses.” And shortly after finds a the Devil writing on stone with “corroding fires.” This Moravian theme, which Schuchard explains as capable of rendering “ethical and religious truths accessible to all, even to the illiterate and to children, through the lure of pictures” is echoed in Blake’s A Memorable Fancy. Where engraving, visualizing, are key components of both Moravian tradition and Blake’s moral and creative style. Interpreting Blake’s work through a Moravian perspective offers great insight on his upbringing. It also humanizes Blake and his family and situates his work within a larger trajectory of successful attempts to challenge our notions of the hierarchies of knowledge and interrogates the very epistemic violence felt by believes of non-dominant religions and identities.

-Israel Alonso

Moravian tradition features frequent sexual imagery, and this is comparable to Blake’s rather horrifying description of the Leviathan’s mouth. It is all incredibly strange. A large portion of Moravian theology focuses on the wounds of Christ. These include the wounds of circumcision and the wound of the spear in the rib. These wounds are highly sexualized, as Marsha Schuchard describes in the article “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visual Art.” Schuchard asserts that Moravians “focus intently on the bloody wounds of the crucified Jesus, which he interpreted in highly eroticized language—i.e., as the centurion’s phallic spear penetrated the vaginal side-wound, new souls were birthed in the gushing blood from this mystical intercourse” (Schuchard). The emphasis on the strange juxtaposition of the wounding of Christ against the phallic sexual imagery of the spear is both curious and applicable to Blake’s writing. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake describes the Leviathan that faces him, using the same semi-sexual imagery. The Leviathan approaches, and Blake sees its “mouth & red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward us with all the fury of a spiritual existence” (Blake 77). This passage uses the same semi-sexual imagery to describe the events that cause the growth of Blake’s narrator. The description of the Leviathan as a kind of reddish, bleeding, flesh-frilled, hole-centered maw is simultaneously horrifying, as well as reminiscent of the miracle of birth. The erotic imagery of Moravian biblical study is perfectly captured in Blakeian demonic study, showing William Blake’s influence by a possible Moravian childhood.

 

Hey, this is disgusting and I hate when William Blake makes me think about stuff.

Ross Koppel

In “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art” by Marsha Keith Schuchard, the author explores the Moravian influences that motivate the art of William Blake.

To put into context, Blake is influenced by Moravian art due to his mother, Catherine Armitage Blake, who’s Moravian associations dawned on “ecumenical missionaries, an esoteric tradition of Christian Kabbalism, Hermetic alchemy, and Oriental theosophy, along with a European “high culture” of religious art, music, and poetry.” Zinzendorf’s leadership in the Moravian church developed “Herzensreligion (religion of the heart), which affirmed that Jesus’s Menschwerdung (“humanation”) made him experience the full range of human pain and pleasure”.

This is exemplified in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in the verse:

Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

Energy is Eternal Delight

The energy in this passage comes from the body. In Christianity the body is the ultimate sense of shame. Even it’s nakedness is offensive to others, and provokes sin in other people if they lust for it (despite the body being but a biological consequence of existing). So, for Blake to say that Energy, which is “the only life” is from the body further reinscribes the idea that humanization (and the carnal factors that come with it) are perhaps not as sinful as one would think. This could be connected to the ultimate source of energy driving the New Testament: Jesus Christ. If energy is from the body, than perhaps Blake is drawing from Moravian influences by stating that “Energy [from the body] is eternal delight”, so in a sense Jesus experienced  a “full range of human pain and pleasure”. I also believe that this verse could relate to Jesus through a Moravian lens because of the “eternal delight” which in Moravian believe the sensating of Jesus is a joyous experience.

Moravian ideals were also marked by gender fluidity. Drawing on beliefs that the holy trinity is a “male-female” divinity in which the Holy Spirit is female, and that all human souls are female, both sexes then are able to have a “psychoerotic consummation with Jesus”. Energy in this passage is not marked by a gender or by even a specific species. Instead these ideas are marked by the erotic implications one can put on ‘the body’ and on ‘delight’. This forms connection with a divinity that is not gender specific, and because it is not confined and energy is coming from the soul (which is apparently always female) than the possibilities of having a psychoerotic consumation with Jesus is possible through energy which comes from the body. Thus putting a new perspective on the idea that eroticism can only come from the human body, and cannot manifest through other forms of divine power.

-Beya Bautista

“Lions, and Tyger’s and Bears.”

 

 

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion. (1)
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. (2)
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. (3)
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. (4)

In the very first line of this poem are metaphors that are quite cunning. As one can see, Blake did not hold back when it came to calling out the hypocrisy of which the state and church contained. Using irony, he shows the backward system of both Law and Religion -law is supposed to step in to prevent the further demise of deviant behavior so as to prevent the further imprisonment of the members of society; while religion is supposed to intervene and prevent the moral decline of its people. Instead, there is a greed filled profit to be made in both circumstances. In the following three lines he does a few things: he mentions emotion; he uses animal symbols; and he uses several key representation of God. Line 2’s Peacock symbol represents immortality -thus saying God’s glory is eternal. Line 3’s Goat represents bountifulness, indicating God will always provide. And, finally, Line 4’s Lion, represents that absolute leadership. One has to question why he would place these lines under the very first one, where he is revealing the greed that exists. The dichotomy in that was probably his goal. We see this throughout the rest of the poem.

 

 

The nakedness of woman is the work of God. (5)
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. (6)
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. (8)

In line 5, “the nakedness of the woman” indicates the actual human condition; but it is interesting, and should be noted that Blake chose to use the woman gender to represent such work. Perhaps he wanted to indicate that women are, in fact, the actual creators/carriers of other humans, and in addition, should not be demonized with regard to their connection to Eve. Again, just like line 1, line 5 stands out from lines 6, 7, and 8 where Blake speaks through emotional and physical attributes, and uses irony: “Excess of sorrow laughs/excess of joy weeps.” The three lines that follow imply the truth: that God does see all that occurs in the world; His power is too intense for others to want to recognize; therefore, they hide behind their lies.

 

The fox condemns the trap, not himself. (9)
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. (10)
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. (11)
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. (12)

Because Foxes are known for being clever, line 9 could represent the marginalized group of people whom are being set up to fail amongst society. Lines 10 shows a before and after affect: first there is joy, later there is sorry that follows, as with most things in life. Lines 11, and 12 creates the idea that we should live our lives the way that we want, in order to create harmony.

 

The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagin’d.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
One thought, fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

 

The line that sums up the point of Blake’s message is that when he says: “Always be ready to speak your mind.” Blake’s use of nature and animals is a device where he wanted to use the most organic constructs to convey his message about truth.  -Marcy Martinez

 

 

 

Narration or Proverb?

The Proverbs of Hell are presented as cultural artifacts brought back from a trip to the pit. The final line blurs the line between the genre of cultural artifact and the genre of belief.

The speaker of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a rather confusing one. The narrator questions the Bible, Paradise Lost, and many, many more works and concepts. Most curiously, the narrator claims that they traveled to Hell and was delighted by what they saw. They found wisdom in the pit, and sought to bring this wisdom back . The final proverb, numbered line 70 in Blake’s Poetry and Designs, complicates the relationship of what the speaker believes and what the damned and demons believe. To this end, the final question “Enough! or Too much” serves to show the blurring of a writer’s belief and the statements they have posed.

“Enough! or Too much” is the only proverb that is offset, center justified in contrast with the left justification of each other line. It is meant to be viewed as its own line, separate and distinct among the rest of the proverbs. This leads to many interpretations, but I will be discussing only two.

The first interpretation is that these are the words of the narrator. The narrator looks at “infernal wisdom,” which is mostly dark, questions assumptions, and are otherwise plagued with ideas that force a reader to question the standards of the world. The narrator, with the exclamation point, shouts out “Enough!” for their mind cannot handle more infernal wisdom, or does not want to bring more of this infernal wisdom into the living world. The narrator then questions whether they have overshared. Perhaps this was too much subversion, perhaps just the right amount. This reflects another proverb “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” This confusion as to what is excess is in the mind of the narrator.

The second interpretation of this line is that this is the final proverb, the final cultural artifact brought back from the pit. This would make sense, because as mentioned above, the idea of excess is one that is mentioned in at least one other proverb, and the final line reads as a Proverb would.

Thus, the question becomes raised: which of these proverbs are the work of the narrator, and which are brought back to Earth from Hell? Moreover, these are all from the pen of Blake himself, whether the story is framed as a return from Hell or not. Then, it can be said the framing device that these wisdoms are brought back from Hell is a form of deflection, a layer of removal between author and text. If the reader is confused as to whether a line is proverb or narrator, the reader is then forced to consider the possibility that these works are the heartfelt beliefs of the Author, and not merely the corrupted beliefs of a fictional narrator who had spoken to the denizens of Hell.

 

Ross Koppel

Blakes touches on his idea of the poetic Genius again, in “Provers of Hell”; he claims that it is both a natural–not taught–kind of Genius, and that it isn’t necessarily the best looking process. Blake writes in lines 66-7: “Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.” This goes back to the conversation with Blake and Reynolds wherein Blake argues that the kind of poetic Genius he is talking about cannot be taught in an institution; it is merely within us all and only within ourselves can we find that power.

So then, what Blake is restating in this proverb is the “naturalness” of that Genius, claiming that though it is not practiced and taught, it is the best path to walk on. In addition, he is also stating that through the Genius, improvement is futile because what is written through the Genius cannot be perfected nor improved; it is already perfect.

The same idea comes in form of another proverb: “All wholesom food is caught without a net or a trap”, which alludes to the unnecessary use of extra tools. Relating back to my argument, those tools would be practices of exploiting the Genius out of the body by way of force through an institution. The way of the Genius, the natural & crooked, is more wholesome than using the aid of others.

I suppose the first part of the proverb, the institutionalized aspect of learning, belongs to hell; Blake sees this way of thinking as an infernal belief. The reason for this is because the narrator of the Marriage texts reflects Blake’s character and artistry, through the fact that he is self-educated and discusses his teaching of the proverbs he’s found. The parallel then shifts the poetic Genius to the divine image of heaven. In the marriage between himself and society, he is the prophet.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

🐅 🐜

“Pixar Movie about a Tiger/Beetle”

by Bradley Dexter Christian

Dual powers contend in William Blake’s “A Dream” from Songs of Innocence and “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience, reminding me of the climax from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book in which the main antagonist, a tiger (Shere Khan) battles the Red Flower. The poems illustrate several animals like ants, worms, and beetles for comparing them to the much larger, and more predatory tiger, which is described in the latter poem’s image editorialization as having a smile. Blake’s speaker in “A Dream” questions “did he smile his work to see?” (Blake 39) suggesting that sinister tiger has, as in the Kipling narrative, fallen prey to cyclical, primitive violence, and is being burned by human fire, “hand, dare sieze the fire?” (Blake ). If the poem’s action does depict the tiger under threat of fire-or shall I say- the tiger has committed an act by which the experience of execution-by-fire is enacted, then Innocence inherently embeds religious valuation to actually form a satirical theology. Blake’s Biblical reading in the marginal footnote on Isaiah 11:6, “Isaiah prophesies that the lion and the lamb shall lie down together,” (25) is forcing “A Dream” to attain a parallel utopian-conservationism by images of peacefully grazing animals being engulfed, “Where on grass methought I Iay,” (Blake 26), and effectively evoking “shade” for producing an optical, dream-like pattern, “Once a dream did weave,” (Blake 26) geometrically wending, as if the speaker has inspirationally beseeched the smaller animals, “Now return and weep for me./ Pitying I drop’d a tear,” (Blake 26, line 12). These images are connotative of an unfamiliar yet seductive narrative, and we can call these cliches availing in both literary and religious forms throughout Songs of Experience as the demonic, “What immortal hand or eye,” (Blake 38, 3) as in Mowgli’s hand holding the lit, flame-bearing torch to the tiger’s face as a consequential thematic plotline, which for Blake acts as a turn to virtuous philosophy, “dare he aspire,” (Blake 38, line 7). Blake repeats the notion of “immortality,” (Blake 39, 23) along with the authoritative question of beast representation, “Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” (Blake 39, 24). A monotheistic comprehension therefore becomes problematic as the speaker of “The Tyger” approaches limits of humanity.

A better way to approach the problem of Blake’s difference of the two poems involves redefining the speaker of Innocence as the actual tiger from Experience. Integrating this character as the reveling speaker casts a greater view of Innocence to show even the smaller creatures in “A Dream” are accomplices to the fiery destruction brought on by the tiger/tygress in Experience. “I am set to light the ground, While the beetle goes his round,” (Blake 26, 17-18) is indicating a functioning, unitary agreement between the beasts. A satirical approach will unite the cast of Innocence/Experience– does this mean the Pixar or Dreamworks animators have to imagine animals working together, maybe to stop a corporate deforestation plot before it infiltrates their ecosystem? Or are the bigger beasts Orwellian tigers that guard the insects from exploits of forest survivalism? Performative, fantasy elements and moral reasoning between the negative twin poems help to signify Blakian approach to anthropomorphism. Charles Dickens himself utilizes miniature beast wordplay, specifically using the beetle to serve as the homonym naming of the Beadle, orphan-father in the novel, Oliver Twist. Boundless points of intersectional gender and identity politics from Judith Butler’s double-meanings, Frederic Jameson’s dual power in American human rights discourse, the philosophical turn per Kierkegaard’s religion, and political autobiography on Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois’s double-consciousness are located in the discursive areas between Blake’s A Dream” and “The Tyger,” while ranging beasts from common insects to the largest-cat species known to man in between circuits of Blake’s twin, Gothic poems for containing the discursive struggles known through Blake’s intended meanings, modes of publication, historical moments, etc.

The “weeping” in the Innocence poem ought to be substituted with the smiling in the Experience poem. I want to interpret the aforementioned valuation as a Pixar-Blake adaptation: the tiger and beetle are best friends who have crossed into a portal into the fictional world of cult-horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, the cartoon tiger and his insect friend have to join forces with the townspeople and set fire to Freddy Kruger. Such a deconstruction of our religiously-viewed cinema alongside the non-referential buddy folk-trope (Woody and Buzz, Mowgli and the Wolves, Princess Belle and the magical, household products) appearing with two proportionately-unmatched protagonists for illuminating Blake’s twin poems’ complementary beast poetics and for being simultaneous responses and platform to critically understanding trends in the religious orders varying several, hundreds of years. 

-Brad

“The Chimney Sweeper” (Songs of Innocence and Experience)

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ‘Weep! weep! weep! weep!’
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved; so I said,
‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’

And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!–
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

 

“The Chimney Sweeper” (Songs of Experience)

 

A little black thing among the snow,

Crying ” ‘weep! ‘weep!” in notes of woe!

“Where are thy father and mother? say?”—

“They are both gone up to the church to pray.

“Because I was happy upon the heath,

And smiled among the winter’s snow,

They clothed me in the clothes of death,

And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

“And because I am happy and dance and sing,

They think they have done me no injury,

And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,

Who make up a heaven of our misery.”

 

Both versions of the poem “The Chimney Sweeper” are tragic; except the version from Songs of Innocence, amidst its sadness, tugs at one’s heart because it reveals the hope the narrator -the little boy- has in regards to his terrible circumstance.  In the first stanza we learn that he was sold into labor as a chimney sweeper, and apparently quite young as he indicates he could barely understand what was going to happen to him: “And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ‘Weep! weep! weep! weep!’”  In the following stanzas, the narrator seems to have taken on a parental role towards the other chimney sweepers, attempting to comfort them as they perhaps are just entering that occupation; while, the narrator is, at this point, already well versed with the job duties.  Some of his words of comfort explain what sort of things they had to endure, such as the shaving of their hair, and/or it could indicate the toll -hair loss- chimney sweeping was taking on them.  He tells the other little boy, “‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’”  As the poem continues, the narrator’s voice returns to the reader, conveying wishful thinking, as they indicate that all the tragedy and darkness will once again return to light and hope; unfortunately, it also reveals that such a reality, is in fact not one.  It would only happen when they die, and have gone to heaven.

And, thus death is what is now brought into the picture with the second version of the poem, as in death of hope.  However, the narrator -a little boy’s voice, once again- is responding to another’s voice who has, essentially, asked him where his parents are.  The voice then replies with a bitter response.  The child seems angry and betrayed by his parents whom -as told in the original poem, first stanza- have sold him off as a chimney sweeper.  His anger seems also seems to be also towards God, as he says, “And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,Who make up a heaven of our misery.”  One could infer that, as opposed to the first version of the poem, where the narrator tries to instill a glimmer of hope in the other children’s minds, that a vast amount of time must have passed up to this point.  It seems as though the act of dreaming or wishing or praying is no longer an option.  He has come to accept his doom.  On the other hand, it could also represent the moment in which he was originally sold off; where he too is full of grief, like the “Tom” he tries to comfort in the first poem.

-Marcy Martinez

The innocence that is found in “A Dream” is bounded by the warm opportunistic tone offered in the last two stanzas, especially the last the line:

Pitying, I dropped a tear:
But I saw a glow-worm near,
Who replied, ‘What wailing wight
Calls the watchman of the night?

‘I am set to light the ground,
While the beetle goes his round:
Follow now the beetle’s hum;
Little wanderer, hie thee home! ‘

It appears as if the Emmet is given the chance to unite with their family once again, offered by the open-ended style of the resolution. Here, the reader is immediately pulled into the world of the ant and their family; an image of their reuniting is fantasized as move on from the story. It has no real ending other than the glow-worm offering its aid to the ant. Had this been written for Experience, then I’m sure Blake would have suggested a different ending; if it were anything like the ending found in “The Angel”, we would find the Emmet was too late. Though this was only the dream of innocence, and only a dream of experience ends this way…

I hate to pose the same question as the speaker in Blake’s poem, but what can it mean, this dream? If the idea of experience is to bridge the outcomes of reality and build expectations from said experience, what can this dream–of a fictional place–mean in relation to experience? Surely even the concept of dreaming and the fountain of imagination of which it is created, must be considered innocent, for they are unreal–a non-tangible experience. But where do we begin deeming the ideas of the subconscious as manifestations of experience?

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez