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Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
- William Blake - The Tyger (from Songs of Experience)
William Blake is probably most famous for the opening verse of his “Auguries of Innocence”: “To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.” The verse formed one of the centrepieces of the Tombraider movie about Lara Croft at the height of her fame;
The verse was Blake’s rephrasing of “as above, so below”, expressing Blake’s adherence to the notion of correspondences. He shared with the Hermetics that if one could really see, everything was double, micro- and macro-cosmic. To this, he added, that “without contraries there is no progression”. Ackroyd begins his biography of Blake by stating that “in the visionary imagination of William Blake there is no birth and no death, no beginning and no end, only the perpetual pilgrimage within time towards eternity.”
When he became apprenticed in 1772, his master engraver was James Basire, who lived on No. 31 Great Queen Street, opposite the Masonic Grand Lodge. Quite a few of Blake’s friends would enter Freemasonry, though there is no record that Blake ever joined. Blake’s biographer Peter Ackroyd states that Blake never joined any organisation, but according to the lists of grandmasters of the Druid Order, Blake was a grandmaster from 1799 till 1827. Of course, such lists are often grand claims with little substantiation. Still, when he lived at No. 28 Poland Street, between 1785 and 1790, the “The Ancient Order of the Druids” convened merely a few yards down from Blake’s house, in an ale-house apparently established by the Order itself. Too close for comfort?
To quote Peter Ackroyd: “All his life, Blake was entranced and persuaded by the idea of a deeply spiritual past, and he continually alluded to the possibility of ancient lore and arcane myths that could be employed to reveal previously hidden truths.”
Blake had read Stukeley’s Abury on the supposed Druid temples of Avebury and Stonehenge. Blake, together with many like-minded people, would transform the history of Britain and direct it into the Celtic direction, away from its Roman foundations and focus. Blake believed that “The Egyptian Hieroglyphs, the Greek and the Roman Mythology, and the Modern Freemasonry being the last remnants of it. The honourable Emanuel Swedenborg is the wonderful Restorer of this long lost Secret.”
At one point, Blake also created an alchemically-themed tarot deck. When he learned that it was to be used by Varley and Hockley as a “key” for the Diogenes’ occult operations, Blake, realizing that the Diogenes represented the “chartered” forces of the establishment, got Samuel Palmer to disperse the cards. Hence, there may be truth to the statement that Blake never joined any organisation, as perhaps he was a serial non-joiner of organisation, preferring to be an individual.
For Blake, England may have been Jerusalem, but, specifically, for Blake, time did not exist and he therefore looked to the distant past and the distant future, to see a London of utter bliss, the “Heavenly Jerusalem” spoken off in the Bible. He seemed to have a particular affinity for the London Stone, London’s foundation stone, where he had quite a few visions of this “Jerusalem”. On Primrose Hill, a site cherished by the early modern Druids, he had a vision of the “Spiritual Sun”, which he compared to the true light, the light of the Imagination.
Blake is therefore frequently seen as a mystic, but this is not totally accurate. He deliberately wrote in the style of the Hebrew prophets and apocalyptic writers and envisioned his works as expressions of prophecy, following in the footsteps of Elijah and Milton. To be absolutely precise, he believed himself to be the living embodiment of the spirit of Milton. Blake’s Jerusalem was written as a preface to Milton. Here, John Milton, returns from heaven and encourages Blake to develop his relationship with dead writers. The poem is apocalyptic in its setting and deals with the union of the dead and the living.
William Blake drew a series of "visionary heads" in his latter years, of spiritual visitors which he alone could see.
“Ghost of a Flea” was the result of his vision of a flea and its statement that human souls sometimes resided in fleas, as a punishment for past lives. One friend was there when Blake had a second vision of the flea, at which point he would sketch him in more detail: “here he is – reach me my things – I shall keep my eye on him. There he comes! His eager tongue whisking out of his mouth, a cup in his hands to hold blood and covered with scaly skin of gold and green.”
Again, for Blake, seeing such ghosts was not at all upsetting; it was but one in a series of supernatural visitors, including, apparently Satan – the true devil – “all else are apocryphal”. Late in life, Crabb Robinson had a conversation with Blake, in which he asked: “You use the same word as Socrates used. What resemblance do you suppose is there between your spirit and the spirit of Socrates?” Blake answered: “The same as between our countenances. I was Socrates… a sort of brother. I must have had conversations with him. So I had with Jesus Christ. I have an obscure recollection of having been with both of them.” Indeed, it was Blake himself who said "I can look at the knot in a piece of wood until it frightens me.”
Newton is probably his most famous painting, in which the physicist is cast in the role of the Great Architect of the Universe – revealing a strong influence of Freemasonry. Foreshadowing Dali, who would claim to be the first painter of the world of quantum physics, Blake seems to have been the first painter of the world of physics. But his mind was definitely quantum physical, if not even more modern.
Despite having known the leading lights of his time, Blake’s fame would be post-mortem. Still, in life, he had said that “I should be sorry if I had an earthly fame for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art. I want nothing whatever. I am quite happy.”
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
I see every thing I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is more beautiful than the sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes.
That the Jews assumed a right exclusively to the benefits of God will be a lasting witness against them and the same will it be against Christians.
You cannot have Liberty in this world without what you call Moral Virtue, and you cannot have Moral Virtue without the slavery of that half of the human race who hate what you call Moral Virtue.
New additions to the archive include a colored version of America a Prophecy, printed circa 1807, completing the archive's collection of all extant copies. First published in 1793, the book is a meditation on the American Revolution, blending historical personages such as George Washington and Thomas Paine with Blake's own mythological characters--Urizen, the god of reason and political repression, and Orc, the spirit of energy and revolt. "The fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night; / For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease,'" Blake writes. The newly acquired copy is an oddity, the editors note, because it was printed with no other works at a time when Blake was not engaged in printing illuminated books.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions
Endur'd by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.
O what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & my frost
Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightnings rent;
This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold.
originally posted by: artistpoet
These artist's poets, Dante, Botticelli, Blake and Rossetti and many others... all share ont thing in common
They were studious of the past and of mythology the esoteric/ spiritual