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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The features and meanings in the
Arlington Tempera
are subject to various interpretations; that's true in fact of all works of art. In particular color representations of this picture reveal things lost to monochrome viewers. The kneeling man at the shore wore a crimson robe. The red robe contributes to Damon (A BLAKE DICTIONARY) seeing the red-robed man kneeling on the shore as Luvah, the Zoa who represented the emotions to Blake. Raine viewing the scene from the Greek mythological perspective, saw him as Odysseus, Digby (SYMBOL AND IMAGE IN WILLIAM BLAKE) saw him in a function of Blake's larger mythological structure as Albion and Jesus who represent the total Humanity.

The contrast between Raine's (BLAKE AND TRADITION) and Digby's interpretations of the picture show how full is the meaning conveyed by the artist to two scholars in very different disciplines. The Greek origin of the setting comes out in Raine's identification of the images(and the total story) as very clearly an adaptation of the Odyssey. Cave of the Nymphs Meanwhile the same images lend themselves in a more direct sense to the system that Blake created; to a great degree a psychological one. (Digby perceived the Greek story told here in strictly Jungian terms.)

In all likelihood Blake portrayed this image to convey all
three facets of the complex character: the red robed man on the shore should be seen as by Damon as Luvah; and as by Raine as Odysseus; and as by Digby as Albion and Jesus. Since the kneeling man is wearing a red robe he suggests to Blake readers a recurring image whether we see him as Odysseus, Luvah, Jesus or Albion.

Blake used 'robes of blood' as a major symbol in his poetry. Look at:

FOUR ZOAS 1-13.8-9; E308:
"Eternity appeard above them as One Man infoldedIn Luvah[s] ROBES OF BLOOD & bearing all his afflictions"

FOUR ZOAS 2-32.13-14; E321
"The heavens were closd and spirits mournd their bondage night and day And the Divine Vision appeard in Luvahs ROBES OF BLOOD"

FOUR ZOAS 7a-87.43-4; E369|
"Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God
Clothed in Luvahs ROBES OF BLOOD descending to redeem"

Blake undoubted knew well the account in Rev. 19 of the appearance of the Christ at the end times, including verse 13: "And he was clothed with a VESTURE DIPPED IN BLOOD: and his name is called The Word of God." (KJV)

And finally we come to plate 42 in MILTON including:

"Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a GARMENT DIPPED IN BLOOD
Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years"

We may suppose that Digby's acquaintance with these
accounts led him to name the man on the shore Albion - Jesus.
Would anyone care to exegete this last passage? (Damon suggested spiritual war)

Ellie's reply:
I've heard it said that life is a struggle. We can't expect to get through it without being battered and bruised. In our daily relationships we endure wounds and inflict wounds, inadvertently as well as deliberately. Most of our wounds are to our psyches, both our own and those whom we attack through our own unconscious defensiveness or projection.So we ourselves can be seen as the bloodied robes. Our psyches as well as our bodies are 'a clothing for the Soul Divine'. Joy and Woe In as far as we can see ourselves as members of the 'body of Christ'(1st Corinthians 12:27), as participants in the Divine Humanity which Blake called Albion, we also are the bloodied robes which Blake spoke of in regard to Luvah and Jesus. Sacred though these raiments be, they can be washed and mended and rewoven into unsullied garments suitable for entry into Jerusalem.

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