Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Blake's Adam and Steve

Blake's illustration to the very end of Paradise Lost: you can see, if you click on the image to enlarge it, the lines quoted there (PL XII: 637-9). It's beautiful. Now there is an interesting post to be written about the relationship of this image to Blake's illustrations of his own work: comparing those fiery flaming manifestations of God's wrath, for instance, with the positive creative fires of imaginative energy in Blake's own mythos. But for now I'm interested in two things.

One is the pronounced physical similarity between Adam and Eve. Eve, really, is very manly. The whole thing, actually, is prodigiously masculinised: those hairy-faced cherubim on their stallions sending barely-dressed Adam and Steve out into the world under a squirming iconic red gigantic spermatozoon. It could be rendered very nicely in stained-glass by Gilbert and George.

Two is the whole equine thing. Are those horsey heads Blake's version of Milton's dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes? Arms perhaps implies cavalry, although it looks to me like Blake is trying to make some point. These four horsemen, what do they mean? Strange, I think, to see Poseidon's animal so fierily rendered. Four setting suns; four separate worlds; Tharmas, Urthona, Vala, Urizen?

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