With this word I can describe Leo Damrosch's book: Eternity's Sunrise The imaginative World of William Blake by Yale University Press.
My research and interest about William Blake started when I read and reviewed just few months ago A Web of Friendship, the correspondence kept by Christina Steady published by Melbourne University Publishing.
I learned with surprise that Mrs. Stead was William Blake's wife.
I read something of Blake but I could consider my interest superficial.
So, when I noticed this publication by Yale with joy I thought: "I want to read it!"
It's a full immersion in a beautiful book with more than a touch of divine. It's a very erudite book, and that was why I love it so badly.
You space from philosophy to psychology passing through history, art, poetry.
Blake didn't never become famous or appreciated while he was still alive because of his controversial vision of art, illustrations ad poetry.
He choose of not staying aligned with art and works produced during his time by his contemporaries, finding his own voice, his own mystery, his own original message for the posterity. He did it in solitude and not always understood.
This choice meant isolation, a sure poverty in comparison to his other colleagues and artists, but Blake didn't mind because he wanted to give a personal and unique contribution to poetry, illustrations.
Some people thought he was mad, other too eccentric.
He suffered for it.
In a poem he wrote:
"Why was I not born like the rest of my race?"
There is an actuality in the message and language used by Blake to me pretty shocking.
He should be more studied, more appreciated by a largest public because he was a revolutionary man mainly into himself with the perennial necessity of "throwing up" what his soul was producing, while he was changing, mutating, but continuing to be always at the perennial research of God, Life, Eternity, Death, Evil, contrasts, light, sun and darkness, these ones his main intellectual attractions.
At first, very young he worked per years as engraver and fought for obtaining that this work would be recognized as an artistic work.
It took a lot of time.
Seeing his works as illustrators, reading his words, I can also add that to me he spent his entire life exorcising death, imagining death, and searching for that touch of Eternity that each man possess and that can "defeat" death although not physically because our conditions are mortals.
In the illustration of Albion of 1780, Albion poses his left foot on an earthworm, between his open legs a bat. It is possible to seeing portrayed the virility and immortality of a man, a man killing death (the earthworm, dominating it) with his own creativity, and at the same time the bat remembers the obscurity of thinking.
This one is my own personal interpretation, considering also that maybe Blake could have seen somewhere the holy imagine of Saint Mary portrayed while she poses her foot on the serpent, to represent symbolically the victory against the evil part of the world.
Blake at the same time has always thought that these two forces, God and Evil are indispensable. The one nurtures the other one and vice versa.
The imperfection of this world donated these two forces and these two forces run the world.
Blake was a rebel, a fighter, a thinker and a voice against the government but also against revolution seen as the bad answer taking in consideration the French Revolution of July 14th 1789 but also the American Revolution.
Back to the French Revolution and Robespierre the end of monarchy meant for France a long and absurd period of Terror much more worse than not the precedent government french folks experienced.
William Blake was someone who didn't know the meaning of hypocrisy. He said what he wanted to saying without too many compliments to his colleagues, to politicians, to the church. His flame was real.
Yes, he was religious, but his religiosity didn't pass through the common channels that we know of and his admiration became Jesus later in his life.
His idea of church without too many dogmatic ideas.
A religion seen without the filters created by human men of church too blind metaphorically for helping other people practically.
An example the condition of little children, workers at a very tender age as portrayed in The Chimney Sweeper.
William and Catherine Blake didn't have any kids unfortunately but they were once kids and it's simple to imagine that they also portrayed in their mind also how they would have grown up their own children.
What upset a lot Blake was that the church didn't help at all the little children who were asking for help.
They were working and it was unfair, they were asking for something to an institution that could have been in grade to give them answers without to receive them.
What Blake considered hypocrite from church was also sexual repression.
Interesting the poem of The Sick Rose.
A worm, the most terrestrial part of Earth, one day enters in the rose, symbol of perfection. This one is an obscure, corrosive love, able to destroy the rose's life and beauty. We can't know if it is because the mortality of the worm is able to corrupt, to open, to modify the precedent state of the rose.
This mixture of feelings brings the worm and the rose in a spiral of perdition, corrosion, lost and at last death.
Blake in his life has known a phase of political activity close to the radicals but when the group started to develop problems preferred to change his mind, abandoning political activism.
It meant also that his works, in the past a connection between religion, society, policy, but never, never disconnected by these thematics and plus by life and death and religion, social protest, will change radically embracing for a while new concepts developed by Isaac Newton: atoms and prisms.
If in the while Blake developed his personal homage to Newton, depression started to put him down and so with his wife decided to move from London to a lovely cottage in Felpham searching for some resting and peace.
William Blake lived his entire life surrounded by hallucinations, voices and episodes he could clearly see and that he would later reported in poems and illustrations.
At the same time as all the most important thinkers suffered of depression and maybe of bipolarity.
His altered state of consciousness gave him the possibility of creating stunning poems while he fought against a lot of demons not excluded sexuality. In general there was shyness from the poets contemporaries of Blake talking of sex. No one talked a lot in their composition of sex as Blake did.
Who knows if it was a cathartic experience or just, as for the other sectors of life he examined, analyzed, also this existential part couldn't be hypocritically avoided, giving space and air also to something relegated in a corner in opposite case?
The life of William Blake and his personal visions resonate with force also during our time keeping this poet and illustrator not only alive, but actual and one of the most appreciated ones.
I thank Yale University Press for the physical copy of this divine book remarking again that I am without words for the beauty of the book, for the beauty of the thoughts expressed by the author, for the stunning illustrations and for the elevate cultural level of this product.
Anna Maria Polidori