Tag Archives: William Blake

The Lamb and the Tyger, William Blake. John Tavener.

The poem called the Lamb by William Blake was first written in his collection of works called Book of Innocence. This book later became part of Songs of Innocence and Wisdom.

The book shows the benefit of Naivety and Experience. This was highlighting another aspect of the teachings of William Blake. Contraries. Without Innocence, wisdom would have no use. The overcoming of innocence brings wisdom and experience.

The trick is to get the balance right. We need to remain innocent in some aspects. For example, I have no experience of drug taking, nor do I ever want any. I don’t think I would benefit from taking drugs of any kind at all . But at the same time, I have benefited by the experience of others in this area. I have seen what drugs do to people and desire to remain innocent of ever doing it myself.

The Lamb poem was mirrored in the  Songs of Wisdom, by The Tyger. On one hand, you have the innocence of the Lamb, who knows nothing and is happy to go about life just…being. The Tyger however is manipulative, always looking for opportunities to devour those not as smart as himself. Blake sees the Tyger as evil and cruel. But the Tyger cannot exist without the Lamb. If there were no innocent created, the Tyger would not have anything or anyone to prey upon.

Blake also reminds us in the poem, the Tyger, that the Tyger was made by the same hands who made the Lamb. Good and evil by one hand. Since the bible tells us that all things are created by God (John Chapter 1), then God made good and evil alike. Without Evil, there is no good, or we wouldn’t be able to discern between the two.

Such a paradox for one, such as me, who always thought that all good came from God and all evil came from Satan.

I have been contemplating this since studying William Blake this last semester (semester 2, 2016) when I studied Blake at University. It was again brought to my mind when we sang The Lamb (words by William Blake, Music by John Tavener) on the Australian Catholic University Choir tour to Rome.

John Tavener obviously studied the poem and its context well before writing the music for this  a Capella piece. The song starts off with the purity of a soprano line, and is joined in along the way by alto, tenor and bass sections. The soprano is beautiful but haunting as the singers ask… “Little Lamb who made thee? dost thou know who made thee?”

As the different sections are added, you can hear the discords or the clash of notes between two or more sections. In some parts the clash is quite pronounced as natural notes come against sharps, which are sung at the same time as flats. It really is confusing for a singer. The timing also is varied throughout the song, as is the volume. But in the end, it all comes together , when the child says…”I’ll tell you who made thee… he is called by your name”. From  then on harmonies bland well, united under one God. It truly is a remarkable piece of music. Copyright prevents me from sharing the written music with you, but here is a YouTube clip from King’s College, Cambridge of the song so you can hear the discord harmonies for yourself.

enjoy.

Dave


“The Lamb”
from Songs of Innocence

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

“The Tyger”
from Songs of Experience

Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire!
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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Are you deaf?

I am compelled to now tell further visions which I have had in my life. I have never shared them before for fear of ridicule. The vision recounted below so haunted me when I was 13 that I ran away from home to try to see if I could make some sense of it and myself.

It  was recurring from age 9 to about 14. Then I think I stopped believing. the compulsion which drove me to church week after week even when my family ridiculed me for going ceased.

This was the vision:

I saw myself bursting forth from the top of a pyramid. Flying through the air, over lands ancient and modern. I wore a short white tunic with a gold hem and a purple line an inch from the hem and on both short sleeves. I wore tight gold armbands on my wrists. I am not aware of my legs or shoes.

I flew over a football ground, from one end to the other and as I did I screamed in my childish treble voice. Then I rose straight up in the air so I could see all the city.

I was crying, sobbing… and shouting for all to hear ” Why won’t you listen?”

But I knew the answer. I was resigned in the fact that I was just a child, with no experience of the world.

The vision ended there and often it left me shaking and sobbing. i recall once I was on the basketball court in year 7 playing basketball with my sports team when the vision came. I just sort of blanked out and ran to a small creek nearby so I could be alone.

Another time as I was walking home from school when I was in year 6, and it so overwhelmed me that I fainted, but managed to wake and get up before anyone noticed.

I have no idea what the vision meant or means. Be sure that these were not dreams but visions. They sometimes occurred at night but mostly during the day.

I was considered a dramatic child but never did I share these visions for fear of ridicule. I am braving it now, with the hope that others who have had similar or as equally bizarre visions may know they are not alone.

Dave

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Visionary Imagination: Summative Post

In this course, we have looked at the writings of William Blake, Patrick White, and David Malouf. We also looked at the art of Brett Whiteley.

I have discovered a theme which runs through the whole course.

God can mean different things to different people, but it is essential to life to find your spiritual journey and to follow it wherever it may lead.

Do not be discouraged by others on your journey. They may say “You Shalt Not”, but you shall, just not in their church, or on their journey.

When it comes to things spiritual, some find comfort having a set of rules and dogmas to follow, where others like to be free in their worship of God as they know him/her or it.

Do not be scared of people who are different. Blake and Whiteley may have been scarey to those who knew them. Blake with his fervency and passion for religious freedom, and Whiteley with his passion for all kinds of mind altering substances. Whiteley’s mind scares me somewhat. How many things can one think about at once? Whiteley wanted to express all that was inside him in a sort of urgency, that caused things to often looked disconnected and muddled.

White showed in his novel, Riders in the Chariot, that there are people in our own community, in suburbia, whom we consider different; all on their own spiritual journey. it doesn’t mean one is wrong, and we shouldn’t treat them with anything other than the dignity that should be afforded to every human being. This novel exposes the maliciousness of seemingly everyday people when the are exposed to people or ways that they themselves are uncomfortable with. White himself had an epiphany, which eventually saw him leave the church., but it wasnt until he saw Billy Graham in 1979 that he gave up on Christianity. In his final days, it was said he had a new testament by his bedside. He was asked if he was reading it.He said no, but went on to say, “Well, I will soon know”.

Malouf focuses his novel on a man who is different, but the same as those in the society into which he stumbles. We all must seek to try to understand others, before we start to criticise, ostracise and demean. These different people can add to our lives. Gemmy added value and meaning to the people of the community he stumbled into.

Patrick White was a well known homosexual in our community, who lived with his male partner as husband and wife and nobody blinked an eyelid, except the church. David Malouf is also openly gay. He writes about spiritual issues but himself is not religious despite having a staunch Christian as a father and a mother who gave up her Jewish heritage to be with the man she loved.

Whiteley was raised in a Christian home and school, but turned against the traditions to follow his own spiritual path, along a journey that led him into a world of drugs and alcohol. His paintings were sometimes very sexually explicit.

Blake was a man who fervently followed the Christian teachings but who was not one to be restricted by the church concerning matters sexual or anything else.

These men freed themselves from the restrictions that the world would place on them. It gave them freedom to express the visions they had.

Ones visions and imagination are our own to enjoy, but if we wish to express them, they can be restricted by people or the community in which we wish to be a part.

The people that we studied were pioneers, bravely expressing what was on their hearts. I pray that I too might have that courage.

I have been encouraged on my own spiritual journey. I feel that I am closer to God now than I have been for years. I feel closest to God when I sing about Him, about our relationship with him and how good it is to be comforted by Him who walks with us along life’s journey.

This course has challenged me. It challenged my values and my belief structures. In doing so, it made me release some, to throw off the shackles, and embrace and strengthen others. I have enjoyed studying this course.

Dave

 

 

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All that Glitters: Brett Whiteley

I am a few weeks behind commenting on my visit to the Brett Whiteley Studio and Gallery, and indeed on Alchemy itself. I have been in deep thought about what one part to concentrate on. The work ‘Alchemy’ is an incredible artwork mapping Brett Whiteley’s life. Some have said it is a self portrait. I think of it in a literary sense. It is autobiographical. A portrait in art is generally one picture, showing one aspect of a person, with facial features, showing only the surface. An autobiography however, can reveal thoughts and feelings that perhaps were not evident before being revealed.

Alchemy can be described as taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Taking what is common, and making it shine like gold. I believe that what Brett Whiteley was trying to show was the transition of his own life, from conception through to spiritual nirvana, turning one sperm amongst millions, into a life that mattered.

alchemy

The section I wish to focus on is his discovery or what I call the exploration portion of the artwork. I have interpreted this part of the painting to coincide with Whiteley’s adolescence. Adolescence is a time of discovery. We use a telescope to look into the cosmos. We discover what part we are to play in this big wide world. and we realise, with the use of a magnifying glass, that our own worth is infinitesimal compared to the universe. Brett Whiteley depicts this as him looking at his own life as William Blake’s grain of sand, making reference to his work

alchemy-exploration

 

If we are reading the work from right to left (Contrary to the chronological way it was painted), you will see that at the end of what I term Whitleley’s adolescence a speech bubble with …!! enclosed. I believe this is the moment of revelation for Whiteley. the “That’s it!” moment.

And then with the realisation, he has discovered IT.

 

When travelling in the city on the weekend, I had my partner lean out of the car window and take these photos of a mural on the side of a building on the corner of Southern Cross Drive and Flinders St. You will see here that the artist is also facinated by Whiteley and has captured some of the spirit of Whiteley.

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Blessings

Dave

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How Studying William Blake has affected me

I used to be religious. Well, not religious as such, but fervent in my belief of and evangelism of God. Then I got honest with myself and others and disclosed my homosexuality. I felt disengaged with the church as it were. I was excluded from some churches because of my sexuality. The churches that did accept my sexuality, I felt compromised on some vital areas of doctrine.

William Blake was also disillusioned with the church or organised religion, but he had a deep understanding of and relationship with God. This is evidenced by his writings and engravings. When I studied the plates that Blake made for The Book of Job, I got a greater understanding of Job, than I ever had before.

Image result for religious

Studying William Blake, and studying in a Catholic University as well as being part of the University Choir, has developed within me the passion to again live a life that is more in line with the gospels and with the tenets of Christ.

Being part of the University has encouraged me to be socially responsible and aware of human rights abuses both in our country and in the world in general. It has pushed me to be active in my faith and not just talk about it but do something about it. I have increased my volunteering where I could, helping those less fortunate than I.

I use my God-given talent of singing for the glory of God. I use my other talents of art, writing, and photography to promote and advance social justice issues, and to fight against human right injustices.

Image result for religious

Studying Blake has helped me to separate the Church from the Word; to follow the Word of God where I find a discrepancy between the two. It made me feel that I am not the only one that is disappointed with organised religion, but seek to follow Christ separate; but also with others in the University choir.

In short, I am more of a Christian now, than before when I was a “Churchy, or God-botherer” as some of my friends described me. I hold true to the teachings of God through Christ but admit I do fail. I don’t beat myself up when I do fail.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths”.

 

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William Blake’s Book of Job Plates.

The plates that Blake made for the Book of Job are very descriptive and fairly true to the word of the Bible. I do like his interpretation in pictures what is written in words.

For this blog entry, I am concentrating on the first and last plates of the book. I intend to point out various aspects of the plates and try to explain just what Blake was trying to get at when he engraved these images.job-1last-job

In Plate 1, the day is ending, and night is coming. If we think that Light is good and dark is bad, you can see that this is a forewarning of the doom to come. Life in Plate 1 is “nice”. Job is content with his life, surrounded by his pious children and his loving wife. the open book, representing the word of God sits on Job’s lap. the family is wealthy. The flocks of sheep are deep around them and beast and man alike are content. In the background we see a church and also a town or community. Does this signify that these things, although present in Job’s life, do not take priority over his flocks and family which are displayed further in the foreground?

We see too, that it is a passive scene. Everybody, and all the beasts are at rest. The musical instruments are hanging in the tree like ornaments. Did Job take his faith for granted? Was he passive in his faith?

The Book of Job in the Bible tells the story of a man of faith. Faith that could not be broken. The Devil then goes to God and says, ” I can cause any man to stop following you, and follow me instead”. (this of course is a Dave’s paraphrase and not a literal translation). God answers Satan saying “You wanna bet? Consider my servant Job. You wont break him”. God gave Satan permission to try Job. He told him he could do anything he liked to Job except not take his life.

The book of Job tells of the trials that Job goes through. He loses all his family and flocks. His friends ridicule him and give him bad advice. They mock him and say “Listen, you follow God, but still all this bad stuff happens to you. Curse God and live!”

Job answers “Go away, what should we expect, that only good should come from God, shouldn’t we also expect some troubles?”

The whole story is depicted in 21 plates engraved by William Blake.

Plate 21 shows us the story after Satan has given up. God has won the bet. Because Job was faithful, God allowed him to live another 140 years and see 4 generations of his family following. His farm prospered and again he was highly regarded amongst his friends.

Look closely at Plate 21 (above). We can see that the night or darkness is ending, and day or good times are coming. The flocks again lay at the feet of the family. But the family itself, Job included, is not passive in their worship of God, or their spiritual life. Where before, in plate 1 the family were all seated and at peace, this new family is active in their worship of God. They are all on their feet, worshiping, playing music to God. Job himself is depicted not only holding a harp, but has his hand raised in worship to God.

Blake was telling the story of Job through the plates, but I also think he was trying to tell the believers who followed not to be passive in your life with God. If you do that, disaster may strike. Are you ready for it? Be fervent in your following of God. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”. It is the prayer and worship of God that will help us to overcome the hard times. “Even though  I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I fear no evil. The rod and thy staff, they comfort me”. The Rod represents the punishment or correction of God, the staff of a shepherd is used to keep the sheep on the right path.

Blake quotes on the top right corner of Plate 21 ” Just and True are they Ways, O thou King of Saints. Job is telling God that he knows that God was with him through all the trials. God did not desert him and so Job, will not desert the True and Just God.

I loved seeing these plates in person in the Art Gallery of NSW. I would have loved some extra time to study them. Thank God for the internet. I can look into them all I desire.

Sometimes, I think we can all relate to Job. There are times when we think that God may have deserted us. Recently, I had a fall. My health was bad. The bank made a mistake that meant I was without money. My car started to fail. But I held on. I am glad I did. My health improved, the bank issue was sorted in my favour, I bought a new car and sold the old one… I was not expecting to get money for it. I won a national photo competition, I am getting good grades at Uni, and in November, I am going to Rome to sing with my choir. So hang in there, it does get better.

Dave

 

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