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with intellectual spears & long winged arrows of thought


In “Some Sexual Connotations” (Blake 16 [Winter 1982-83], 166-71), I attempted to detail the overt sexual referents in several polysemous, or “multi-stable,” textual passages and illustrations. Such referents are significant not only in their own right, proof of Blake’s practice of “No Secrecy in Art,” but as well for the way in which they are contained in their overdetermined context, since “what is not too Explicit” is “the fittest for Instruction because it rouzes the faculties to act” (letter to Trusler, 23 August 1799). This context includes, as Blake puts it on the titlepage of The Four Zoas, “The torments of Love & Jealousy”; and it includes those torments in their most physical and emotional expression.

As for overt sexual imagery, I am happy to find Brenda Webster’s independent suggestion of the Rahabpenis figure in Jerusalem, pl. 75 (Blake’s Prophetic Psychology [Athens, Ga.: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1983], p. 286; reproduced in “Some Sexual Connotations,” p. 170). But I am ashamed (pudeo!) to have to add another instance, and one, no less, from an illustration accompanying my earlier discussion. Perhaps there is consolation in thinking that the realization of such repression of the signifier is a promise of pleasure to come as we learn to read Blake with fewer inhibitions, in greater polymorphous perversity: with the enjoyment of all his senses. Jerusalem, pl. 85, copy E (illus.), like the other designs discussed in “Some Sexual Connotations,” offers a “multistable” image as well, since the figure of Los’s doubled right leg stands out from its ground as a side-on view of a tumescent penis (foreskin not yet drawn back). The two clusters of grapes might in this case suggest (removed?)

	Became a Space & an Allegory around the Winding Worm
	They namd it Canaan & built for it a tender Moon
	Los smild with joy thinking on Enitharmon & he brought
	Reuben from his twelvefold wandrings & led him into it
	Planting the Seeds of the Twelwe Tribes & Moses & David
	And gave a Time & Revolution to the Space Six Thousand Years
	He calld it Divine Analogy, for in Beulah the Feminine
	Emanations Create Space, the Masculine Create Time. & plant
	The Seeds of beauty in the Space: listning to their lamentation
	Los walks upon his ancient Mountains in the deadly darkness
	Among his Furnaces directing his laborious Myriads watchful
	Looking to the East: & his voice is heard over the whole Earth
	As he watches the Furnaces by night, & directs the labourers
	And thus Los replies upon his Watch: the Valleys listen silent:
	The Stars stand still to hear: Jerusalem & Vala cease to mourn!
	His voice is heard from Albion: the Alps & Appenines
	Listen: Hermon & Lebanon bow their crowned heads
	Babel & Shinar look toward the Western Gate, they sit down
	Silent at his voice: they view the red Globe of fire in Los’s hand
	As he walks from Furnace to Furnace directing the Labourers
	And this is the Song of Los. the Song that he sings on his
	O lovely mild Jerusalem! O Shiloh of Mount Ephraim!
	I see thy Gates of precious stones! thy Walls of gold & silver
	Thou art the soft reflected Image of the Sleeping Man
	Who stretchd on Albions rocks reposes amidst his Twenty-eight
	Cities: where Beulah lovely terminates, in the hills & valleys of Albion
	Cities not yet embodied in Time and Space: plant ye
	The Seeds O Sisters in the bosom of Time & Spaces womb
	To spring up for Jerusalem: lovely Shadow of Sleeping Albion
	Why wilt thou rend thyself apart & build an Earthly Kingdom
	To reign in pride & to opress & to mix the Cup of Delusion
	O thou that dwellest with Babylon! Come forth O lovely-one
William Blake.   Jerusalem, pl. 85, copy E (detail).
[View this object in the William Blake Archive]
begin page 236 | back to top testicles, or sperm “removed” by being “fibred” over to/by Enitharmon: a sort of conceptual representation of intercourse (note how one collateral fibre does branch off toward/from the area of Los’s heart). The difficulty in seeing such images—as this addendum witnesses—is that they are, at first, so unexpected. Here the viewer has to be able to enter the image and make some of the connections: to focus on the shaded body of the leg, treating it as one form, to continue the outline of the penis-form through the ankle lines, to disregard the light area of the foot, even to see the upper outline of the left leg as no outline but another fibre (not that difficult if one tries to conceive how, as an outline, it connects to the trunk of the body). The foreskin is marked by the kneecap and the orifice by the small circle, resembling an indentation, across from the top of the lower cluster of grapes. One need only trust the initial impression that there’s something oddly emphasized about this (third) leg, that it seems to possess a life and existence of its own. This erection might serve to explain why Los and Enitharmon are so emphatically looking away from each other, not wishing to acknowledge the (pictorially-speaking, anyway) most important thing between them.

Which leads us to a reconsideration of the implied ascetic message of the lines quoted from “My Spectre” in “Some Sexual Connotations,” p. 171 (11. 49-52 [erroneously cited as 67-70]; see also Ostriker’s remarks in the same issue, p. 161). It now seems to me that a truly “radical” argument might be read as, in effect, “let’s forget about ‘Love’ and get physical—really ‘tear up,’ ‘root up’ the ‘infernal grove.’ Then, having disposed of the lineaments of gratified desire, may we ‘return & see / The worlds of happy Eternity.’ ” The crucial point, what allows the return and vision of the worlds, is the initial mutual agreement. This might explain why the phrase is repeated. Thus the speaker argues, at first:

Till I turn from Female Love
And root up the Infernal Grove
I shall never worthy be
To Step into Eternity (41-44)
But it can’t be done alone. Eternity, in fact, is nothing but this ongoing process of agreeing, rooting up, and returning. So, the speaker concludes:
Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove
Then shall we return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity

& Throughout all Eternity
I forgive you you forgive me
As our Dear Redeemer said
This the Wine & this the Bread (49-56)
So should all couples consummate “the fleshly bread . . . the nervous wine” (FZ 12.44).

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