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William Blake, The Jonah Of London

2977 words - 12 pages

William Blake, the Jonah of London
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Through the streets and alleyways of Nineveh the prophet Jonah trudged. At every marketplace and city gate he joyously roared his tidings of evil, “forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!” Two and a half millennia after the great fish vomited Jonah back onto dry land, William Blake faithfully follows that path of bilge and seaweed, bile and gall, into the fraternity of prophets and oracles. Just as Jonah was reluctant to prophesy to the Ninevites for fear that his enemies would hear and repent, Blake has a vested interest in perpetuating the blindness of his readers. In fact, even as he works his metaphysics to impose his ...view middle of the document...

Blake again establishes the bond between prophets and the fires of Hell by telling of an angel who, having been converted by a devil, embraces the fire and, consumed by it, arises as the prophet Elijah (plate 24). Thus allegiance to Hell, Bake claims, makes one a prophet.

Not satisfied with being only a prophet, Blake declares himself the prophet, the one destined to bring about the fulfillment of the final triumph of all prophets’ desire, “the desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite” (plate 13). “At the end of six thousand years . . . the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite and corrupt” (plate 14). That promised end, as he prophesied earlier, has come, and the cherub guarding the Garden of Eden is about to leave so that Adam might return. But first, Man must be liberated and his perceptions made clean so that “everything would appear to man as it is, infinite,” and this all important task has fallen on one William Blake, prophet, author, & printer (plate 14).

“One thought fills immensity,” so goes one of Hell’s proverbs, and Blake, being a man of many thoughts, is absolutely filled with infinites (plate 8). As the printer of Hell, the raging fires and limitless expanses of its Printing House would be Blake’s rightful domain. “By printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid,” Blake would transfer those immensities, those thoughts, within him and send them out to cleanse the world (plate 14). Like the “mighty Devil” that he saw emblazoning a message of immensity upon the press-plate of the world, the “flat sided steep” that “frowns over the present world,” the abyss of the five senses, Blake the poet prophet shall burn with corroding acids into the copper-plate cliff of the abyss infinities to be “perceived by the minds of men & read by them on earth” (plates 6 & 7).

His messages of infinity “the world shall have whether they will or no”--the bold and overpowering, all-consuming way being the only way of Hell and of the infinite (plate 24). Full of Hell’s fires and energies, the prophet’s message is irresistible. Desire is an all-consuming fire that should not and cannot be quenched. It overwhelms and burns with the force of immensities; “those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained,” but true desire is too strong for bonds—indeed, “sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires” (plates 5 & 10). “Rintrah roars and shakes his fires,” while in the printing house of Hell are dragons, vipers, eagles with “wings and feathers of air”, raging “lions of flaming fire”, and “unnamed forms” presumably too great or overwhelming for words (plates 2 & 15). How else can the beasts of Hell be but awesome and inexorable creatures of action and boldness, fearless predators that consume and hesitate not, when...

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