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Sunday, January 17, 2010


This post follows the thread in these three posts related to Plate 62 of Jerusalem:



Perhaps Plate 62 of Jerusalem is an attempted summation of Blake's myth up to that point. Putting all of the Old Testament and New Testament allusions in the text, as well as connecting the picture to text on a plate that falls much earlier in the story, points toward an amalgamation of various threads.
IMAGE: Jerusalem, Plate 62, Albion and Los
In the Illumination on Plate 62, we have an example of how Blake presents the explicit and implicit simultaneously. The explicit is invariably the lessor of his communications. Although the seven spots direct us to the Eyes of God, there is a suggestion of twelve spots. The implied twelve suggests the Zodiac and other instances of twelve entities for which we may seek associations.

The picture itself goes beyond the stated imagery of the text on either Plate 62 or Plate 33. In the introduction to
William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Percival presents the overall theme of his book: that when the long cycle comes to an end, it renews (repeats) itself if error is not cast off, or it reaches the Last Judgment which ends all temporal things. Percival sees Blake presenting the whole of the cycle: from the undifferentiated status of Eternity to the Apocalypse where time ends - in all its aspects of politics, science, history, sociology, psychology and religion.

Through the images incorporated in this picture of Albion, Blake may be suggesting a turning point in cosmic events. The ouroboros (seen as a snake around Albion's head), as a representation of cyclical experience reminds us that Albion may break the cycle or repeat it. The peacock feathers surrounding the head remind us that this is a point of transition. The Eyes of God tell us that Albion is under the protection of the Eternals though he has not returned from the world of time. The twelve eyes point to the Zodiac, another image of cyclical movement. (Percival is able to correlate the stages traversed in Blake's myth with passage through the signs of the Zodiac in Chapter VIII of his book.)

Using alchemical symbolism, Percival makes this observation, "The feminine mercury passes from black to white through an intermediate stage in which all the colors assert themselves. The symbol of this stage is the peacock's tail. The appearance of this symbol is a good omen; it means that the fire is doing its work, that death is awakening into life, or, as Paracelsus puts it alchemically, "it showeth the workings of the philosopher's mercury on the vulgar mercury."
Milton O. Percival,
William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Page 206.

Just as Blake wanted us to think of the events of the Old and New Testaments as we read the words of the text, in the illumination he is calling to our minds the seven days of creation, the twelve tribes of Israel, and whatever associations with the numbers seven and twelve which we may have from our reading of history, literature and numerology. The feet, cold to the point of blue death, are surrounded by the fires of destruction and redemption. And what about how Albion grasps the stone tenaciously? The face of fear, anguish and confusion suggests an agonizing decision making process like that undergone by Jesus in the Garden.

Blake bombards us with images, as he makes us ask the question, "Which direction will Albion choose?"

Thanks to Jim and Mark for ideas included in this post.

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