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Decoding Blake
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 01, 2006 01:18PM

I find this one more than just a little confusing. It is taken out of context, but appears alone in a lot of anthologies. Here is the greater work:

[users.compaqnet.be] />
Truly, my Satan, thou art but a dunce,
And dost not know the garment from the man;
Every harlot was a virgin once,
Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan.

Tho' thou art worship'd by the names divine
Of Jesus and Jehovah, thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Night's decline,
The lost traveller's dream under the hill.


Ok, Satan is a dumbo, unable to tell the dancer from the dance, the garment from the man. Sure, every harlot was once a virgin, but who are Kate and/or Nan? Kate symbolizes a certain type of woman, I would think, and Nan another, but are they virgin and harlot? Or something else? The names Kate and Nan appear in Shakespeare, so is Kate a shrew and Nan a sweetie? Even so, surely Satan does try and sometimes succeeds in changing peoples' character. Well, the Satan mystique, I mean: Satan is no more real than Santa Claus, Kaiser Sosť's opinion notwithstanding.

Then, in the second stanza, Blake seems to suggest that Satan is worshipped by the divine names of Jesus and Jehovah (Yahweh). Or are they names that are devine TO J&J? The son of morn in night's (note strange caps) decline? I get lost with that. And what is the lost traveller's dream under the hill? Another obscure reference now that was well known to those who lived circa 1800?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2006 11:55AM by Hugh Clary.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: February 01, 2006 03:28PM

Hugh, you know how much I dislike discussing Blake. I find it often an exercise in futility practiced by academics to confound their students.

That being said certain truisms do generally prevail in his work. Here's my take on the matters you mention above:

Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan.

I think he's just saying you can't change one person into another. Why try to read more into it than that?

Tho' thou art worship'd by the names divine
Of Jesus and Jehovah

Here I think he's saying that the devil is as popular in people's minds as God.

dream under the hill

I've heard the expression in other Victorian works. I'll check to see if I can find a reference, but I'm almost certain it refers to sleep or death.


Les

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/01/2006 03:28PM by lg.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Linda (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 01, 2006 04:26PM

"How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, Son of the Morning" Isaiah 14:12


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Elliot (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 01, 2006 05:44PM

Hugh, thank you for the challenging post. Personally I like Blake... a wee bit of a freee spirit... like meee self....

"my" satan...? As if he is on personal terms. Certainly, this is the result of an encounter with someone evil... satan-like, who has difficulty with simple discrimination (garment/man; harlot/virgin; Kate/Nan). And though worshiped by J.C. and G*d (at least, as many believe, the Trinity has given satan some credence, even if it is acknowledgment), satan is but the night's demise, a lost soul, so to speak in some craig below a hill...

To me, what Blake is saying, is that satan is not only stupid, but a lowly, dark, sad character.

Personally, I do not recognize such an entity as there seems to be many dark forces. But they are part of life. It is how we deal with the problems and misfortunes that counts. ;-P

E.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: PamAdams (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 01, 2006 07:29PM

I think that the 'under the hill' reference is to fairyland- example the Tam Lin story.

'You may be worshipped like God, but in reality, you're just a fairy tale.'

pam


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: February 02, 2006 03:13AM

Pam, this reference from Tennyson has nothing to do with fairyland.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Break, Break, Break


Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

Les


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: February 02, 2006 03:23AM

Perhaps the key to the "under the hill" phrase, lies here:

The Little Hill
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Oh, here the air is sweet and still,
And soft's the grass to lie on;
And far away's the little hill
They took for Christ to die on.

And there's a hill across the brook,
And down the brook's another;
But, oh, the little hill they took,ó
I think I am its mother!

The moon that saw Gethsemane,
I watch it rise and set:
It has so many things to see,
They help it to forget.

But little hills that sit at home
So many hundred years,
Remember Greece, remember Rome,
Remember Mary's tears.

And far away in Palestine,
Sadder than any other,
Grieves still the hill that I call mine,ó
I think I am its mother!


Les


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 02, 2006 09:18PM

This is an interesting excerpt, Hugh. Your intial recap (so Satan is a dumbo) is comical and does get a mind going on this.


Could his use of "my" Satan, taking ownership, indicate that he is talking about a not so virtuous trait in himself....maybe harshly judging others...or more generally implying that any of us can fall into this trap?

The first stanza, if setting the stage for the second? (haven't read the entire work) seems to be showing that no matter what paths a person takes, what erroneous choices or mistakes they make, despite their actions, they are still the same person...or still "A" person, just the same. I am brought to thinking of what can be said about a murderer or such, "he is somebody's son" or brother, etc.

The second stanza could be showing that the most righteous people, worshipers of God, who are most inclined to criticize and judge others, are unknowingly victims of Satan's clutches when doing thus. In other words, no better.

As you pointed out, the capitalization in S2L3 is questionable. For some reason, when seeing Son of Morn, I was immediately taken to see also, Son of Man. With the capitalization of "Night's" as well, it would seem that he wanted it to be tied back to Son of Morn. Maybe it sort of demonstrates the flip side...two sides to every story...every morning has its night...every rose its thorn.....and every man is capable of evil (even, maybe especially?, worshipers of God)?

The last line >The lost traveller's dream under the hill.

Could just be summing it all up that we are all travellers, all the same, but some just get lost.

I enjoyed thinking about this.

Marty

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2006 11:33PM by Marty.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 02, 2006 11:31PM

I've gone back to read the greater work. I find it beautiful in its poetry. Not sure I understand it all, but seem to better for having digested the end first. There is strong reference to sexuality and I wonder if the whole Adam and Eve debate is present....or even male vs. famale debate back in the 1800's?

You may have something, Les, with the poem by Edna St.Vincent Millay. From what time period is she? After the 1800's?



It is interesting to note the line from the epilogue

And dost not know the garment from the man

Which perhaps remains out of context without reading the previous lines;


When weary Man enters his Cave,
He meets his Saviour in the grave.
Some find a Female Garment there,
And some a Male, woven with care;
Lest the Sexual Garments sweet
Should grow a devouring Winding-sheet.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 03, 2006 01:06PM

Good catch on the Isaiah 14:12 reference. That is surely what Blake had in mind, I would think. The hill being Calvary is also intriguing.

The Blake Archive site has pictures of the whole Gates of Paradise plates, this time labeled "For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise. See the relevant plate, for example:

<[www.blakearchive.org] />
You can click the plus button to enlarge the image, then move the enlarged image up/down & left/right. Note there are many capitalized words that do not show caps in the example above. Significant? Possibly not.

Looking up Accuser in the Blake Concordance produces lots of results:

[www.english.uga.edu] />
It won't let me produce the results as a link, so you will have to enter 'accuser' in the search box to get the hits. We will ignore the one about Seargent John Scholfield, although an interesting story in its own right. Likely Bible scholars will understand the Accuser reference in its entirety, but Blake means Lucifer in any case.

So - a synopsis might be: Satan, you may very well be worshipped as a deity here in your tiny kingdom of earth, but when all is said and done, you are more than just a little bit stupid, and in fact have no power whatsoever?



Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: February 03, 2006 02:13PM

you are more than just a little bit stupid

I doubt that Blake would consider Lucifer stupid. In classic terms any conflict between good and evil, requires a worthy adversary to complement the hero. Ala, Batman, Starwars, Beowolf, Ulysses, etc. The greater the adversary, the more remarkable the accomplishments of the hero.


Les

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/03/2006 02:14PM by lg.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: PamAdams (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 03, 2006 02:22PM

Maybe not stupid, but foolish. Satan keeps thinking that all his temptations work, but since they can't change the essential human underneath- every harlot was a virgin once- they will not work.

pam


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 03, 2006 02:24PM

well, maybe he still loves God but was tired of being told what to do and all.

Frampton Comes Alive
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 24, 2005 10:27AM


Lucifer Morgenstern put on His Hat
Itís a Nominal Cover but that, Boys, is that
For the Leanest of Blossoms the last is to go
Evilution it waives and itís on with the Show

Now He mangles the Classics and puts out the Cat
And says Let Me have round Me those Men that are Fat
And He gets the Two Hundred but doesnít pass Go
And His Doctrine is Marilyn Manson Monroe

And His Music it Hips and it Pops and it Rocks
How He Carpes the Diem and Carpes the Nox


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Elliot (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 08, 2006 04:40PM

Another thought on "my satan"... perhaps it is the same context as "my enemy"? My thinking is now tending away from posession or ownership; it seems to be a normal figure of speach.

And personally I feel that evil is dumb, immature, etc. Like... as opposed to a parent slapping a kid for not eating his oatmeal, it is a lot more mature to say, "I love oatmeal in the morning, how about you join me and have some?" It takes a bit more intelligence and maturity to handle things in a constructive manner.

Hitch hiking on what Les says, how about this as well: The greater the
solution, the more remarkable the accomplishments of the hero.

E.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 08, 2006 09:45PM

I took "my Satan" to be in the vein of "look here my good man"

There IS something more to "under ther hill" but it will take some looking

til then, this:


[www.boingboing.net]


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Elliot (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 22, 2006 06:11PM

"Son of Morn" is to me a play on the sun of morning. The Sun is like a Son of Morning... dontcha think?

E.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 23, 2006 11:57AM

Makes sense, but would it then be Isaiah's pun or Blake's? If Ike's, the translation from the original (Greek? Aramaic? Hebrew?) would probably nullify such a conjecture. Was Blake himself a punster? Every poet is one to a certain extent, I would think, so he should have been aware of the wordplay whether he intended it himself or not.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 23, 2006 12:42PM

Sounds Klingon to me


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 24, 2006 12:29PM

Blake was certainly not the first to use this pun. Compare with "Now is the winter of out discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York;" )

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/24/2006 12:31PM by Veronika.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 24, 2006 01:56PM

Someone on a documentary once said that when Christmas was moved to December 25th, it wasn't much of a jump from Sun God to Son of God.

Except which, since they said "Sol" in those days, maybe it referred to Jesus being Jewish?

L'Chaim !


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 24, 2006 05:40PM

"Except which, since they said "Sol" in those days, maybe it referred to Jesus being Jewish?"

I must admit I don't get your comment. I guess I am seriously overdue for a night of Mel Brooks movies - to jog my memory. I remember Hawkeye defining L'Chaim as "Bottoms up, from right to left" :-)

The Slovenian name for Christmas is Boěič - it actually means little god (a diminutive for Bog = god ). It signified the birth of the new sun/sun god on the winter solstice. Christianity simply adopted the name, as well as many other customs, holidays and places of worship.


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: February 24, 2006 08:19PM

Veronika, i admit it was a bit of a stretch....Sol being a nickname for Solomon


Re: Decoding Blake
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: August 02, 2006 07:23AM

bump




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