Burning Bright: Meteoric imagery in the works of William Blake, by A. McBeath

The alignment of meteoric imagery and political and spiritual events in Blake’s work

 

 

Introduction: Blake’s meteoric imagination

According to old Chinese belief, William Blake (1757– 1827) was cursed, since there is no question he lived in ‘interesting times’. Blake was a visionary English poet and artist. He was fascinated by apocalyptic biblical beliefs and prophecies, and worked elements of these even into artworks commissioned of him to illustrate the texts of other poets.

Raphael, ‘Astronomy’, from the Stanza della Segnatura (1509)

He studied widely in the literature and art of the past. His lifelong artistic heroes were Milton, Raphael and Michelangelo. As a result, his works are suffused with flowing forms and astronomical imagery, including meteors and comets.

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Blake’s Chariots of Fire, by David Sten Herrstrom

Blake’s Transformations of Ezekiel’s Wheels in Jerusalem

 

Introduction: Ezekiel in Felpham

During the only period he lived away from London, Blake underwent what he describes in a letter-poem to his friend Thomas Butts as nothing less than a personal Last Judgment, a harrowing experience which involved a crisis of faith in himself and his friends, as well as an accusation by the spectres of “Poverty, Envy, old age & Fear.” These demons hounded him until he found the strength to resist and defeat them in what he calls a “fourfold vision”.

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‘To Defend the Bible in This Year 1798 Would Cost a Man His Life’, by Morton D. Paley

‘The Harlot and the Giant’ from William Blake’s illustrations to Dante’s Purgatorio. It’s basically a depiction of modern Britain in a form that would get past the censors

 

Censorship, Surveillance and the Power of the State: The Whore and the Beast

1798: one of the spiritual low points of modern British history, and the year of Malthus’s Essay on Population. Shelley called Malthus “the apostle of the rich” and Engels later described Malthus’s vision as “the crudest, most barbarous theory that ever existed, a system of despair.” Malthus’s influence on modern eugenic and environmental thinking, as well as Darwinism, has been massive.

For many of us, 1798 was the year of the Lyrical Ballads. But it was also the year of Napoleon in Egypt, the uprising of the United Irishmen and its bloody aftermath, of Malthus’s first Essay on Population, and the year of “the most draconian, anti-radical crackdown of the entire Pittite ‘Terror’” (Ian McCalmon, New Jerusalems).

For William Blake, it was a seemingly unexceptional year, a year for which there are no known letters and no known published works other than some commerical engravings. But it was also the year in which he wrote on the verso of the title page of Bishop Richard Watson’s An Apology for the Bible: “To defend the Bible in this year 1798 would cost a man his life” and then “The Beast and the Whore rule without controls.” The Bishop’s Apology was an attack upon The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, and Blake’s notes were a vehement counter-attack upon Bishop Watson. Why should Blake want to defend Thomas Paine, with whom he had some important points of disagreement, so unequivocally?

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TIANANMEN, by Rod Tweedy

Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre

My song to mark the massacre that happened in Tiananmen Square on 4th June 1989.

On June 4 1989 the Chinese government sent tanks and troops to open fire on thousands of students who were occupying Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Hundreds, maybe thousands were killed or injured. We do not know, because the government has never released the figures. We do know it responded to the student demand for greater democracy with tanks and live bullets.

The occupation of Tiananmen Square was the culmination of a democracy movement which had been gathering pace in China throughout the 1980s and which came to ahead in the spring of 1989.

In the 30 years since, the government of the People’s Republic of China has sought to erase this event from their history. Across the world efforts are made to ensure it does not succeed.

 

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Blake and Rumi, by Sardar Muhammad

A Comparative Study of Jalal-Ud-Din Rumi and William Blake as Mystical Poets

Detail from Rumi’s epic poem Mathnavi-e-Ma’navi or ‘Poem of Inner Meanings’

This article examines the concept of Mystical Union, one of the major themes of Islamic and Christian mystical poetry through juxtaposing the views of Jalal-ud-din Rumi and William Blake on it (Mystical Union).

The work is primarily focused on confirming the philosophical assertion that, “at the highest level of spiritual elevation (state of mystical union), dogmatic differences either cease to exist or become insignificant.” As a central theme of Islamic and Christian mystical poetry, the study of Mystical Union may help to understand both types of mysticism. The analysis of this theme may also encompass the interpretation of most of the constituting elements of mysticism (the stages of mystical path in Islamic and Christian mysticism).

The affinities between the views of Rumi and Blake on mystical union show that there has been an overwhelming agreement between Islamic and Christian mysticism, and that “at the highest level of spiritual elevation (state of mystical union), the differences based on dogmatism cease to exist or become insignificant”. The validity of this assertion has been confirmed through comparative study of Rumi and Blake on Mystical Union.

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