Tag Archive: women

Woman’s Power: Chastity, Seduction, & Flirtation

Enitharmon’s eighteen-hundred-year-old slumber is described as the “female dream” because it epitomizes all that Enitharmon wanted. As described in S. Foster Damon’s A Blake Dictionary, Enitharmon is a free woman, and hopes to use her freedom and indoctrinate man with the belief that woman have more power (Damon 132a). To exert her dominance and power over man, she proclaims sex a sin so that women may exert their power over men through chastity (denying men sex), flirtation and seduction (tempting man with sex). Enitharmon says that to “Forbid all Joy, & from her childhood shall the little female / Spread nets in every secret path” (Blake 101), referring to the fact that women now have the upper hand over men, since men are pious and fearful of sin. This is evidenced by the fact that Enitharmon even laughs in her sleep when the men place “Over their doors Thou shalt not” (Blake 105), since the men are foolish enough to be fearful of the Joys of women. Therefore, Enitharmon’s dream is called a “female dream” because those eighteen hundred years mark the dominance of women over men (only in this sexual aspect). What makes this interesting is that at the end of the female dream, Enitharmon’s children (all allegorical symbols for some sort of sex act, sexual feeling, etc.) awake sex deprived after Enitharmon calls upon them and realizes that they are experiencing issues: Ethinthus with excessive waters, Leutha with many pestilent daughters, Oothoon in tears, etc. It begs the question that if it was a female dream, why were her children awaken repressed and with issues. Perhaps Enitharmon’s female dream, meant to be a dominance of woman over man, only stifled passions on both sides.

-Sara Nuila-Chae




Enitharmon’s dream was gendered as female because of its connection to Los; hitherto, Europe was ruled and dictated by a man’s dream, hence: “eighteen hundred years: Man was a Dream!” (12/9, line 2, 101). The logic of reason, or the ideology understood through the character Urizen, had been the contemporary order of society. Therefore, by gendering Enitharmon’s dream–and waking from it–there is this sense of anew. She was awakened to share her dreams with others, leaving Man that was a dream, in the past.

The dream itself opens with a sense of power being exerted by Enitharmon, calling onto her sons to “tell the human race that Woman’s love is Sin” (101). Here, the mother holds the power over her sons, dictating what they do and say, shifting the beholder of power from man to woman as a form of anew to come. Now, it can also be seen as Enitharmon uses her sons for their voices as men, in order to be heard by the old society and shift towards the new–which still reaffirms ideologies of the past. Though this is what will ultimately cause the “sons of Urizen [to] look out and envoy Los”–the sudden shift in power from man to woman, that is (100).

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

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.

Tears and Resurrections

The final line of “Asia” simply states, “Urizen Wept” (42). The associated footnote asserts the wording is ironic because of its parallelism to the biblical line, “Jesus wept,” from John 11:35 but fails to explain the reasoning behind this. Immediately preceding the end of “Asia,” Blake portrays the earth in revolution, a state combining the calling forth of the deceased with the liberation of passionate female sexuality. Whether Blake means for this image to be understood as the apocalypse is unclear, but he definitely pinpoints it as a moment in which there is a definite change–what the footnote calls “the resurrection of humanity.”

This word resurrection ties into Blake’s biblical allusion because the verse, “Jesus wept,” occurs before Jesus performs the miracle of raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. After hearing the deceased’s sisters Mary and Martha recount the story of his death, Jesus was emotionally troubled and moved to weep, and he subsequently gave life back to Lazarus. The details of this story provide an interesting comparison to that of Urizen in several ways. First, Jesus literally resurrects Lazarus, much like the end of “Asia” proclaims the bones of the dead will rise (“the shivring clay breathes” (32)), so these images question the uniqueness of earthly life. Second, both highlight the importance of women: Jesus is swayed by the pleadings of Mary and Martha, and Blake concludes “Asia” with a vivid image of a female orgasm, stating, “Her bosom swells with desire” (37). Finally, I feel the editors chose the word “ironic” to describe this allusion because whereas Jesus weeps from empathy with humanity and acts from this emotion, Urizen weeps because humanity and all its imaginary pleasures–the antithesis of his reason–is being resurrected, rendering him powerless to control the direction of the earth any longer.