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The prophetic books of William Blake : Jerusalem online

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" T ERUSALEM," the longest and the most splendid of the Prophetical
J Books engraved by WILLIAM BLAKE, was first published in the form of
one hundred pages of text and illustrations, dated from South Molton Street,
1 804, though this date represents rather the beginning than the conclusion of
its composition. It has been twice reproduced in facsimile, once separately,
and once (much reduced), in the three volume edition of Blake's works by
Messrs. Ellis and Yeats in 1893, but it has never hitherto been printed in
ordinary type; and those who have tried to study the Prophetical Books will
realize the need for such a text if reading and reference are to be possible with-
out the inordinate strain and fatigue involved in the use of a. facsimile. It is
only when the complete works of Blake are readily accessible and legible that
we may hope that the greatest of English mystics will be adequately studied
and appreciated; and if this is to be, the divorce of the poem from its illus-
trations is an imperative, though none the less regrettable necessity.

It has been our endeavour in the present edition to produce a text which
shall be above all else scrupulously faithful to the original, for easy reference
to which we have retained the division and numbering of its pages. The text,
down to the very eccentricities and inconsistencies of Blake's spelling, is as
accurate as we have been able to make it. In the very few instances where
we have inserted a necessary word or letter it has been inclosed in square
brackets; while the accidental repetitions (marvellously few, when we consider
the difficulties of the reversed writing entailed by Blake's process) have been
marked by round brackets. In what is practically the editio princefs we have
felt this scrupulosity to be essential, even at the risk of incurring the accusa-
tion of confusion and pedantry.

We would acknowledge our indebtedness, in common with all students of
Blake, to the patient and sympathetic labours of Messrs. Ellis and Yeats, and
our personal obligation to the latter for his ready help and kindness. Our
gratitude to Mr. Swinburne for the brilliant essay in which he was the first to
divine the sanity as well as the splendour of the poet, has been further increased
by his gracious acceptance of the dedication of this book.

July, 1903. A. G. B. RUSSELL.

vii b



IT would obviously be impossible to explain in a few pages so
complex a symbolic system as that of Blake's works; and when
it is remembered that any explanation has to be gathered from the
books themselves, with no further key than their casual hints afford,
and that of these books the larger part has been destroyed by Tatham
and other admirers of the poet, it can hardly be supposed that each
line of the Prophetical books will ever be interpreted in a manner
entirely satisfying. Nor can a simple significance be attached to
each symbol, by which it may be translated in whatever context it
may occur; for symbolism, whether it be that of Ezekiel or of the
Apocalypse, of Dante or of Blake, necessarily deals with truths too
universal to be comprehended in a literal formula, and confounds
the commentator by its infinite application. But it may be useful
to put together, however imperfectly, some of the clues and corre-
spondences contained in "Jerusalem," reserving for a further volume
which the editors have in preparation any attempt at a complete
exposition with justificatory references.

Man is at once the stage and the protagonist in the drama
with which Blake is concerned, the Fourfold Man, called sym-
bolically by the name of Albion, " our ancestor, in whose sleep or
Chaos creation began,"; and his state depends on the union and
agreement of the four elements that are met in him. Beside the
Humanity, or central personality of the individual, stand the Spectre,
the reasoning power, and the Emanation (a word sometimes abridged
into Eon,) the emotional and imaginative life, with the Shadow,
which seems to be desire, restrained and become passive, " till it is
only the shadow of desire." When these are united, and especially
when the Spectre and the Emanation, contraries in whose inter-
action all other contraries are involved, are balanced and at peace,
Man is in the state of salvation, which Boehme called temperature ;
when Spectre and Emanation have parted, Man is in a fallen state,
and can only be redeemed by their reconciliation. This fall into
divison, and resurrection into unity, is the main subject of "Jeru-
salem " and indeed of most of the Prophetical books ; for the part-


ing of Reason and Imagination is the great tragedy, through which
the Spectre becomes cold and the Emanation weak, the Shadow
turns cruel, and the Humanity is overcome by deadly sleep (15, 6).
A sleep, too, full of dreams, in which Man wavers between evil
and good, drawn alternately by the male Spectre and the female
Emanation, and so called by Blake hermaphroditic: a sleep from
which only Christ, the Divine Imagination, can save the fallen
Man, by reuniting him with Jerusalem, his Emanation, and saving
him from the dominion of his Spectre, the great selfhood, called

But man is not left to struggle unaided or unopposed; around
and within him is ranged an infinite host of spiritual powers, headed
by the four Zoas, the living creatures in the vision of Ezekiel and
of Saint John, who are the chief characters in Blake's mythology,
standing somewhat in the place of Boehme's seven Fountain-spirits.
.These are named Urizen, Luvah, Tharmas, and Urthona, and their
influence extends through a vast system of fourfold correspondences
in macrocosm and microcosm alike. Urizen is the Intellect; he is
called a Ploughman, and rules in the Zenith, in the South, in Air,
in the Head and Eyes of Man. Luvah is the Emotional life ; he
is called a Weaver, and rules in the Centre, in the East, in Fire,
in the Heart and Nostrils: when " generate " he is called Ore, the
child who resumes in himself all children born in the myths and
shorter poems. Tharmas is the life of the Senses ; he is called a
Shepherd and rules in the Circumference, in the West, in Water,
in the Loins and Tongue: in his region is the door of perception,
and it is when this Western gate is closed that man believes him-
self to have a body apart from his soul. Urthona, the fourth Zoa,
is that power known in its highest form as Inspiration and in its
lowest as Instinct; he is called a Blacksmith, and rules in the Nadir,
in the North, in Earth, in the Womb and Ears: he has a " vehicular
form " named Los (the vehicle, that is, of inspiration), the spirit of
Prophecy, and in a certain sense the prophet, Blake, himself. But
it must always be remembered that while it may be convenient to
set down the four Zoas as the lords of intellectual, emotional, sen-
sual, and instinctive life, these words are mere shadows of their true
significance, which belongs to every plane of interpretation: so that

to take only the two great antagonists, Urizen and Los, in art they
stand for the naturalistic and symbolic tendencies, in religion for
dogma and mysticism, in ethics for the outer rule of the Law and
the inner rule of the Gospel.

Nor is it possible to attribute a good or evil character abso-
lutely to any of the Zoas without falling into the error of Ulro,
which lies in attributing good or evil to individuals and not to
states: in their unfallen state all are good, in the fallen all are more
or less evil (cf. 43, 2). For like men they are liable to division in
the parting of spectre and emanation, each Zoa having an Eman-
ation or female part assigned to him; these are named Ahania,
Vala, Enion, and Enitharmon. Ahania is the Emanation of Urizen,
his " eternal delight," and the story of her separation from him is
told in the beautiful book named after her. Vala, the Emanation
of Luvah, fills a far more prominent place, and gives her name to
a long book which Blake never engraved: she is Nature in her
sensual beauty, ever weaving her veil or net to catch the souls ot
the dead, i.e., those who have entered into bodily life: she is the
false system of religion, the shadow of the true Jerusalem: she
appears sometimes in a double form, as Tirzah the lovely with her
sisters, and as Rahab, who binds the red cord of blood in the window
of the eye: she is Babylon, the mother of mystery, the harlot of the
Apocalypse. Enion is the Emanation of Tharmas: like Ahania,
she plays but a small part in "Jerusalem," but she may be called
the typical maternal power, as Ore is the child and Urizen the
father. Enitharmon is the Emanation and wife of Urthona-Los:
we are told that where Los is Time she is Space, in one of the
typical pairs of contraries, corresponding to Male and Female, Soul
and Body: and we might compare her to Shelley's Intellectual
Beauty, in distinction to the body's beauty of Vala, as Urthona has
been compared to Shelley's Demogorgon by Dr. Rudolf Kassner
in his brilliant and suggestive essay on Blake. 1

It is difficult to make clear the exact relation of the Zoas to
their several regions: these are not altogether identified with them,
for certain of the Zoas fall from their own region into that of an-

1 In "Die Mystik, die Kiinstler, und das Leben." Leipzig, 1900.


other (59, 1 1), and yet they partake of their nature. The Zoas are
" eternal States," the cardinal points, the regions of the sky, and all
the chain of corresponding Symbols are " Spaces " : and State and
Space form once more a parallel to Male and Female. But it may
generally be said that all the States and Spaces ranged under Urizen,
for example, in the table to be found at the end of the Index, par-
take of his intellectual nature.

Not only are there innumerable Spaces to be occupied, but the
Zoas are parents of many children, countless, but generally reckoned
as sixteen. Of these only four appear much in "Jerusalem," the
\ " Sons of Los," Rintrah, Palamabron, Theotormon, and Bromion,
who correspond in a lower sphere to the Zoas in their regular order:
they are identified in the book of " Milton," in which they play a
prominent part, with different forms of artistic energy. In a lower
sphere come the states to whom Blake assigned the names of the
Twelve Tribes of Israel (cf. preface to Chapter II.) : and still lower,
in Ulro itself, are placed the Sons and Daughters of Albion (the
Twenty-four), states with names often grotesque, some of which
contain allusions to Blake's earthly friends and foes, each with his
own Emanation. These may be taken as the ideas and sensations,
respectively, of Man: belonging particularly in this poem to his
fallen state, and therefore discordant and continually endeavouring
to usurp what is not theirs by right. The Sons of Albion with their
starry, or intellectual, wheels which make up the Mill (Blake's not
inappropriate symbol for Logic!) form at last the great Polypus of
rationalism: the Daughters, who may be combined into Tirzah and
Rahab, and so represent to some extent the power of Vala, are cruel
and drunken with blood, eager to sacrifice their friends in the
mistaken morality of " Druid " religion. Against these Sons Los
labours at his furnaces of Enthusiasm, building his great city of
Golgonooza, " Civitas Dei," the abode of spiritual art and religion,
with its sculptured gates opening into every plane: a city beautiful
in definite and minutely organized particulars, though set in the
midst of Entuthon Benython, the valley of abstract philosophy, and
the lake of Udan Adan, the home of the indefinite, which Blake,
like all true mystics, hated with all his soul.

The Twelve Tribes and the Sons of Albion, with their Eman-


ations, may be arranged in groups of three under the Four Zoas:
and in each case one brother absorbs his brethren (Reuben: Hand).
Both orders (who are little heard of except in "Jerusalem") have
allotted to them the counties of Britain in two elaborate schemes,
(pp. 1 6 and 72): this plan of correspondences was doubtless fully
worked out in Blake's mind, and may have been used in some of
the lost books, but in "Jerusalem" it has not much real import-
ance, and does undoubtedly present some serious difficulties.

Geographical symbolism in general, however, and to a certain
extent historical symbolism also, is of great importance in the inter-
pretation of the prophetical books: for Blake, like the prophets of
Israel, saw in contemporary events such as the French Revolution
and the American war of Independence, and even in his own move-
ments, types of eternal things. Four continents, four countries of
Europe, four towns of Great Britain, were seen by him as repre- /
sentatives of the Zoas: and in "Jerusalem" he makes great use of '
the quarters of London, Albion's city, as symbols of the " regions
of humanity " in the mind of man (38, 43). It is well to remember
that the position of any places named must be calculated with
reference to the London of 1800: the points actually named as
South, East, West and North, are Norwood, Blackheath, Hounslow,
and Finchley. Strange as the use of such familiar and commonplace
names may seem in a poem of profound spiritual significance, it is
easy for us to forget that Edom and Ammon and Gilead held for
the contemporaries of Jeremiah small mystery of association, but
were essentially neighbouring districts, used emblematically in
religious poetry: and it was Blake's deliberate wish to parallel
these places with his own geographical symbols in England, as may
be observed from the way in which the two are often coupled

The fourfold system here briefly indicated extends through
many other spheres of correspondence; it is also connected with
Blake's teaching of the four " atmospheres," named in "Jerusalem,"
Eden, Beulah, Ulro, and Generation. In the microcosm of man the
four parts are often reduced to three : Head, Heart, and Loins.
It will be noticed in "Jerusalem" (42, 24), that the fourth Zoa,
Urthona-Los, speaks of Albion as having slain, that is, introduced


into corporeal " vegetated " life, the other three Zoas, but as un-
able to kill the fourth: and this may be compared with the reduc-
tion of the tetrad to the triad by the omission of the fourth member.
Most of the triads in Blake's poems will be found to correspond
with this one: e.g., Creation, Redemption, Judgment: Mercy,
Pity, Peace.

Such, in the briefest outline, are some of the more important
points in the symbolic system. The application, like the system
itself, is inevitably complex, for a passage has often many different
interpretations in different spheres, and one thread of meaning
passes imperceptibly into another. For it must continually be re-
membered that Blake was writing, at least according to his own
belief, an account of actual visionary experiences: and even if we
translate vision into terms of the subliminal consciousness the result
remains unchanged, though its value may be affected. If Blake
had drawn up a cipher system, and translated " the passions " into
" Luvah," the method would have been absurd, but the writing
would have been perfectly lucid to anyone possessed of the key.
The seer must himself interpret his visions, as much as his readers.
Careless of the fate of his works, he seldom vouchsafed the explan-
ations he could so easily have given: and it is only the laborious
analysis of his two latest editors that has opened the way for those
who care to follow in it. But when once the main principles are
grasped, it is comparatively easy to understand the greater part
of the prophetical books, though passages must often occur which
are perplexing even to an experienced reader, and there are many
minor symbols with perfectly definite meanings (for Blake was
never vague), which are difficult to explain with any certainty.

It may perhaps be helpful to give a very brief paraphrase of
the beautiful poem contained in the Preface to the second Chap-
ter (To the Jews) as an example of the way in which the symbolism
is used: the poem in question may really be said to narrate in a
condensed form the main story of "Jerusalem," though it begins
at an earlier point than the whole work, telling of the unfallen
state of the Man who is represented on the first page as already
fallen or about to fall.


In this unfallen state the " fields " in the north, from east to
west, the regions, that is, of instinctive life both on the side of
emotion and on that of sensual perception, were the supports of the
holy Imagination, through the pillars of intellect (gold being the
metal of Urizen). The Imagination was the Bride of the Lamb of
God, happy in many lovely and innocent ways, and every idea of
man was the "child of Jesus and his Bride" in the religion of for-
giveness, refusing to impute sin. But the peace is broken: the in-
tellectual powers are busied with the western region of bodily things
(and in particular the sense of the Tongue, through which came
the first sin) : and man falls into the sleep that we call the life of
the body, shadowed by the tree of mystery, and passing from in-
spired religion to that false faith which demands bodily instead of
mental sacrifice. He enters into mortal sorrow, and his hard rational
power, called by Blake " Satan," separates itself from his loins (the
place of judgment), and furiously enforces its legal morality. By
this separation the imagination also is forced to depart, and passing
eastward through mere emotionalism it is lost in grief. Further
and further the reason asserts its dominion over the emotional life,
and the happinesses of man (rivers) become stained with sensual-
ity: in every phase of mental life the place of the imagination is
restricted, and the power itself is forced into the dark land of cor-
poreal life. By such a system of religion man is convinced of his
own mortality, equalling himself with the worms: but nothing can
wholly obscure the glory of the divine within him, even in the
weakness and transience of the life between birth and death. This
state is common to all mankind; and the poet identifies himself
with the man whose fall he has narrated, and calls on the Lamb of
God, the Divine Image whom he crucified, but who still makes
his perpetual appeal to the heart of man: he implores him to mould
the spiritual and to repress the merely rational life with the love
and fear of God. For the reason is to be mastered, not to be
abandoned; in all its selfish cruelty and pride of intellectual war it
is still a true part of man, even when it tries to claim that its own
children (the logical ideas) have alone the right to exist, though
such a system is bound at last to be its own destruction. The true
life knows no compulsion, but consists in mutual acceptance and


forgiveness: for so can man be joined with man to build up
Christianity, the religion of the Imagination.

The main story told in "Jerusalem" itself is essentially the
same as this: the book tells of the separation and reunion of the
fourfold man, and of the cruel rule of the Speclre. But running
parallel with the myth of Albion and Jerusalem is the myth of Los,
who himself divides as a result of the division of Albion: and his
story sometimes occupies as large a space as the other, e.g., in the
first chapter, which is concerned with Los from the last lines of
p. 5 to those of p. 17, though the two myths are too much con-
necled to be absolutely disentangled. Other stories are those of
Hand as the typical Son of Albion, aud Reuben as the typical Son
of Jacob (pp. 34-36 and elsewhere): but indeed every character in
the great myth has its own story of fall and redemption, so that
even to enumerate them would require a greater space than this brief
Introduction can afford. Nor is it possible to give a page for page
paraphrase of the whole book: for, apart from all question of space,
the arrangement of "Jerusalem " is far more confused than that of
any other of the engraved books. Blake seems, after recording the
main myth, to have used it as a kind of storehouse for his more
important visions: pages have been engraved at various dates and
inserted, till the whole was finally arranged in four chapters of
twenty-five pages each, with prefaces and separate illustrations.
This method naturally involved pages being put in to make up the
requisite number, or taken out to reduce it: and such separate
visions as the beautiful and very late p. 61 had places, more or less
appropriate, found for them. But the extraordinary splendour of
much of this somewhat chaotic material amply compensates for
the lack of the more methodical arrangement of some of the shorter
Prophetical books, few of which attain to the magnificence of such
passages as the close of the fourth chapter of "Jerusalem."

It is improbable that Blake will ever be found an easy or a
popular author: the elaborate symbolism will deter some who would
otherwise be drawn to the teaching it veils, and others will be re-
pelled by a hundred vehement rebellions against conventional religion
and conventional morality. Rebels the mystics have often been, and


had Blake been the leader of a school, or even a conforming member
of a strict and orthodox church, he would certainly have fallen under
the censure meted out to his great predecessors, John Erigena and
Jacob Boehme. His lot has been the harder one of neglect; negleft
through the difficulty of obtaining and reading his books, a difficulty
the present edition may help to remove; neglect too through the
obscurity of his utterances, and his own indifference as to their
fate. But it is not those who have read his works that have called
him madman or blasphemer: for to read is, in some measure at
least, to understand, and Truth, as he himself has said, can never
be told so as to be understood and not be believed.


Each Man is in his Spectre's power
Untill the arrival of that hour
When his Humanity awake
And cast his Spectre into the Lake.

P. 2




Printed by W. Blake, S th Molton S*

p. 3 Sheep TO THE PUBLIC Goats

AFTER my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean, I again
display my Giant forms to the Public : My former Giants & Fairies

having receiv'd the highest reward possible, the .... and

of those with whom to be connected, is to be : I cannot doubt

5 that this more consolidated & extended Work, will be as kindly

recieved The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the

Author hopes I also

hope the Reader will be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who

is the God and Lord to whom the Ancients look'd

10 and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement.

The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who waits
to be righteous before he enters into the Saviour's kingdom, the Divine t ""
Body, will never enter there. I am perhaps the most sinful of men!
I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love, to see, to converse with
15 daily, as man with man, & the more to have an interest in the Friend
of Sinners. Therefore . . . Reader, . . . what you do not approve, &
me for this energetic exertion of my talent,

Reader! . . . of books! . . . of heaven,

And of that God from whom

20 Who in mysterious Sinai's awful cave,

To Man the wondrous art of writing gave.

Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!

Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:

Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
25 Within the unfathom'd caverns of my Ear.

Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:

Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony.



30 We who dwell on Earth can do nothing of ourselves, every thing
is conducted by Spirits, no less than Digestion or Sleep

. . . When this Verse was first dictated to me I consider'd a Monotonous
Cadence like that used by Milton & Shakspeare & all writers of English Blank
Verse, derived from the modern bondage of Rhyming, to be a necessary and
35 indispensable part of Verse. But I soon found that in the mouth of a true
Orator such monotony was not only awkward, but as much a bondage as rhyme
itself. I therefore have produced a variety in every line, both of cadences &

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Online LibraryWilliam BlakeThe prophetic books of William Blake : Jerusalem → online text (page 1 of 14)