Yeats’s Editions of the Poetry of William Blake

[Ed. note: Yeats edition the Works of William Blake with Edwin J. Ellis in three volumes (Quaritch 1893) in three volumes and issued a single-volume edition of the Poems of William Blake (1893, rep. 1905, 1910, &c.), with a revised introduction which makes reference to the other. My notes taken from these two during Summer 2008, together with Edward O’Shea’s Descriptive Catalog of the Library of W. B. Yeats(Garland 1985), also held there, are given lower on this page. Other materials from further reading such as the critical remarks of Kathleen Raine (Yeats the Initiate, 1986) and Morris Eavis (ed. Foster S Damon, A Blake Dictionary, 2013) have also been inserted here while full-text versions of Ellis's Preface and Yeats’s introduction have been given on linked pages, accessible from links in the index below. BS.]

NLI Notes
Yeats & Ellis, ed., The Works of William Blake, 3 vols. (1893)
Yeats, ed., Poetry of William Blake [1893, 1905] (1910)

S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake (Brown UP 1965) - infra.
Kathleen Raine, Yeats the Initiate: Essays on Certain Themes in the Work of W. B. Yeats [1986] (NY: Barnes & Noble 1990) - infra.

Full-text versions
W. B. Yeats & Edwin J. Ellis, The Works of William Blake, 3 vols. (London: Quaritch 1893)
W. B. Yeats, Introduction to Poems of William Blake (London: A. H. Bullen 1893)


A Prospectus for an Edition of the Works of William Blake [1893]

[Held as William O’Brien Collection of National Library of Ireland, Cat. LO P115, Item 54.]In preparation: The Poetic Books of William Blake / collected and their Myth and Meaning Explained / by / Edwin John Ellis / and / William Butler Yeats, author of the “Wanderings of Oisin”. / ‘Bring me to the test / And I the matter will re-word, which madness / Would gambol from’ / London: / Bernard Quaritch, 15 Picadilly, 1891. Title verso, b & w ill. Of engraving by Blake, with intertwined text: ‘Such Visions have appeard to me as I my Ord[eal] Race have Run / Jerusalem Is Named Liberty.’

Quotes Swinburne’s essay, 1868: ‘Into these darker parts of the book we will not go too deep. Time, patience and insight on the part of writer and reader might perhaps clear up all details and lay bare much worth sight and study. It is feasible, and would be worth doing, but not here. If the singular amalgam called BLAKE’s works should ever get publshed and edited to any purpose, this will have to be done .’ (pp.287-8.)
An opportunity has now offered itself for the completion of the task half performed by MR SWINBURNE. A large and important manuscript poem by Blake, which has remained for a hundred years in the possession of the Linnell family, has for the first time been read, sorted, paged, and printed by the editors of this collection. The work, called the “Book of Vala”, was given by BLAKE on his death-bed to his friend and helper JOHN LINNELL. It was written on loose sheets, and the order of the parts, the meaning of the story, and even some of the words themselves, defied elucidation.
“Vala”, however, has been made to yield up her secret, and this proved of incomparable value in aiding the interpretation of much that was difficult or doubtful in the myth that runs through all the poems. For its literary quality it will probably rank as BLAKE’S masterpiece. Rough sketches in pencil decorate the margin. Some of these will be reproduced, by permission of the brothers LINNELL, in the present edition.
The entire text will be given, with explanatory coment of all the so-called Prophetic Books, and by their aid the meaning will appear of much that is otherwise quite incomprehensible even in the apparently simple “Songs of Innocence and Experience”.
As far as possible the poems will be given in the form of facsimile form BLAKE’S own copies, thus placing the accuracy of the text beyond dispute, while incorporating the original designs with the works in which they were placed by the poet and painter himself. A short biographical acount, in which some new matter is introducted and the interpretative value of the incidents emphasised, will be appended.
Messrs Edwin John Ellis and W. B. Yeats, the eminent Blake enthusiasts and critics, are about to bring out a new Commentary [which will] throw an entirely new light on the poet’s hitherto misunderstood mysticism. [...] Two volumes, the first containing the Key to Blake’s system, and explanations of the names and stories of his poems, the second the whole of Vala printed from the original manuscript [...] and over 150 pages of facsimiles from poems engraved by BLAKE with illustrations, the latter shaded to indicate the hand-colouring from the best examples available, a series of 350 facsimiles of BLAKE’s works, by W. GRIGGS, assisted by Mr EDWIN J. Ellis. / The edition will consist of 500 copies of the ordinary issue, and 150 copies on Large Paper. / The price cannot be fixed yet. / Bernard Quaritch.

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W. B. Yeats’s MS annotations to The Works of William Blake (Quaritch 1893), made on his own copy in May 1900, being NLI MS40,56/4/; [Hall LL; WADE 218; 21pp. O’Shea omits 44, 280, 412-413.]

[On title-page verso:] The writing of this is mainly Ellis’s, in asmuch as the biography is by him. He [...] trebled in size a biography of mine. The greater part of the “symbolic system” is my writing; the rest of the book was written by Ellis working over short accounts of the works by me, except in the case of the “literary period” the account of the minor poems, and the account of Blake’s art theories which are all his own except in so far as we discussed everything together. / WBY May 3 1900.

PS The Works is full of misprints. There is a good deal here & there in the biography etc with which I am not in agreement. I think that some of my own constructive symbolism is put with too much confidence. It is mainly right [this] part[s] should be used rather as an interpretative hypothesis than as a certainty. The circulation of the Zoas, which seems to me unlike anything in traditional symbolism, is the chief cause of uncertainty, but most that I have written on the subject is at least part of Blake’s plan. There is also uncertainty about the personages who are mentioned by him too seldom to make one know them perfectly; [v] him [v.] their characters. / WBY May. 1900
See marginal corrigs., e.g., “Book of Thel” for “Book of Hell” (p.36) and ‘charge’ for ‘change’ (p.263.)

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I: “The Necessity of Symbolism’
The Hindu, in the sculptured caverns of Elephanta; the gipsy, in the markings of the sea shell he carries to bring him good fortune; the Rosicrucian student [marg. note: For the Rosicrucian student [underlined by WBY with note: ‘The Hermetic students of the G. D’.] in the geometric symbols of medieval magic, the true reader of Blake in the entangled histories of Urizen and his children, alike discover a profound answer to the riddle of the world. Do they find anything in their obscure oracles that cannot be known from the much more intelligible dialectics and experiments of modern science and modern philosophy? To answer this question it is necessary to analyze the method whereby the mystic seeks for truth, and to inquire what the truth is he seeks for. Blake has discussed the first portion of his problem in many places, but particularly in two tractates called “There is no Natural Religion”. By Natural Religion he understood attempts to build up a religious or spiritual life from any adjustment or ‘ratio’ of the impressions derived from the five senses. These impressions may, indeed, be used in poetry and prophesy as a key to unlock religious truths, but ‘correspondence’, as Swedenborg called the symbolic relation of outer to inner, is itself no product of nature or natural reasons, beginning as it does with a perception of a something different from natural things with which they are to be compared. “Natural Religion” was two-fold to Blake. It was a solution of problems and a restraint of conduct: when only a restraint it was deadening, when only a solution it was [...?] ’ p.[236?])
[The following quoted by Kathleen Raine in Yeats the Initiate (1986)

All such solutions according to him [Blake], arise from the belief that natural and spiritual things do not differ in kind; for if they do so differ, no mere analysis of nature as it exists outside our minds can solve the problem of mental life. This absolute difference may be described as the first postulate of all mystics. [EY, 1, 236.]

See Raine, Yeats the Initiate (1986) - infra.
‘Sometimes the mystical student, bewildered by the different systems, forgets for a moment that the history of moods is the history of the universe, and asks where is the final statement - the complete doctrine. The universe is itself that doctrine and that statement. All others are partial, for it alone is the symbol of the infinite thought which is in turn symbolic of the universal mood we name God.’ (p.239.)
‘As natural things and intellectual things differ by discrete degrees, so do intellectual things differ by discrete degrees from emotional. We have thus three great degrees the first of which is external: the first two possessing form, physical and mental respectively, and the third having no form nor substance - dwelling not in space but in time only.’ (pp.239-40.)
These two degrees [Will - or emotion - and Reason] are the most important, and much of Blake’s system is but the history of their opposing lives differing from and yet completing one another, as love does wisdom - will, understanding - substance, form. The systems of philosophy and dogmas of religion are to the mystic of the Blakean school merely symbolic expressions of racial moods or emotions - the essences of truth - seeking to express themselves in terms of racial memory and experience - the [240] highest degree cloaking itself, as it were, in the second. The German produces transcendental metaphysics, the Englishman positive science, not because either one has discovered the true method of research, but because they express their racial moods or affections. The most perfect truth is simply the dramatic expression of the most complete man. “No man can think, write, or speak,” says Blake in the second “Natural Religion” booklet, “from his heart but he must intend truth. Thus all sects of philosophy are from the poetic genius adapted to the weaknesses of the every individual.” (pp.240-41.)
The five atmospheres and their symbols and correspondences may be thus tabulated [diagram, p.26]:

[Chart 1:]
Jerusalem Divine Fire          
Beulah Eyes Urizen Light Head S Translucence of Zenith
Alla Nostrils Luvah Air Heart E. Centre
Al-ulro† Tongue Tharmas Water Loins W. Circumference
Or-ulro Ears [Los] Earth
Dark fire
Stomach & womb N. Opaque or Nadir
[footer: to face p.280, Vol. I]

Yeats places a ref. sign [cross] in the left margin against Al-ulro, with an MS note added in the footer area: ‘The west [guts] were it not closer [would] work open[ly] upon “Ideas” [...] See description of Golgossooza in Book I Jerusalem (P19). There however the Easter[n] [guts] is [opposite] the [lower] ‘ulro’. [End]

[See also the more complex diagram, infra.]

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“The Fall of the Soul” (pp.2[62]-63)
The correspondences of the four states of humanity - Beulah, Alla, Al-ulro, and Or-ulro - to head, heart, loins and womb, is a phase of the correspondence of macrocosm and microcosm. When man is in harmony with the Divine scheme they are continuous with each other and differ alone in that the one series is universal and the other particular. Men may, however, be out of harmony with the Divine scheme and then the soul may plunge head downwards in the opaque, or in some other way alter the true positions of the states and regions. In the symbolic books are many drawing of such souls; some fall headlong, others lie upon their sides or float obliquely on the air, and all express divers conditions of the life of man. The soul whose head is plunged in the opaque and his loins in the luminous world, is in that state symbolised by the inverted pentagram of the occultists; and, if we follow the interpretation of certain mystics in its greater detail and in its finding the cause of evil not in the ascension of the merely instinctive loins but in the fall of the active and reasoning head. Imagination, in the Blakean symbol, having been deserted by its Angel of the Presence, Reason, works alone through the still vital instincts, and Reason having rejected spiritual life drags the man further and further into the barren world of external sensation. Meanwhile the emotional nature that was once united to the great emotions of the universe is narrowed down to the mere instincts [262] of the Al-ulro, or to change the symbol [1], the heart is full of water, the head is in the earth, and the loins are in the air and light. When the Reason has rejected all but the external world it begins to war on the emotions and instincts, to give them dead laws like those it has found in the opaque - to hid “wisdom in a silver rod and love in a golden bowl” - it make dogma to confine religion, and marriage to confine love, and from these dogmas and laws we have to seek freedom by rising into pure imagination, and standing erect once more. When the human form is described or drawn as lying upon its side it is then in one region only, generally that immediately above the earth, the region of instinctive or vegitative feeling. When it falls or lies obliquely it is half falling, half resting. As soon as the fall of Los in the second chapter of the book of Los becomes oblique contemplative life begins. A being on the other hand may have head and heart both above Alla, while his loins create merely in the world of emotion, leaving to the feet alone - to mere physical movement from place to place - the whole instinctive region, Or-ulro being entirely out of the range of the personality. Such a being may be said to be in the four states of Humanity in action, for the term seems needed to balance “the four states of Humanity in Repose”, described by Milton. It must be remembered that there is both fire and light, God and His Angel of Presence - and the light is in the zenith and fire beyond it. A being, such as we are describing, therefore, would have this [recte, his] head in the Divine ecstasy and seek by his emotions - his heart - the bodying forth of ecstasy, and by the loins or creative faculty its expression in objective shapes of art or speech. There is a symbolic figure of this nature described as “America”, page, 8, lines 16-17, the four regions being expressed by gold, silver, brass, and iron, a method of symbolism taken with its correspondences from the image in Daniel or from the occult tradition, from which the biblical writers in all probability drew the image itself. [263] (pp.262-63.)
Note: Yeats altered the word [typo] ‘charge’ to ‘change’ in the margin in May 1900]

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[Chart II:]
Divine Unity or Freedom Father Son Holy Spirit

( Jerusalem )

The Zoas        
The Children of the Zoas
(The Silver Age)
The Twelve Tribes
(the Brazen or Copper
[ copy incomplete : BS]
The nine months gestation        
The sons and daughters
of Albion
(The Iron Age)
[WBY:] I feel rather uncertain about the attributes of the Twelve tribes in this chart.
[Return to Chart I - supra.]

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Works of Blake - Vol. II : Wade 218; Hall - LL; O’Shea, 220

NB - omitted 349; O’Shea omits 11, 264-263, 272-73, 316, 318, 319-29; most of 325, part of 327, 328-332; 334; 336-334; 378; 380; 388-9, 398.


Header: “Songs of Innocence and Experience” - contains marginal corrigs. in WBY’s hand, e.g., ‘in the next song but two [corrig. for one], the “Divine Image’ [.&c.] (p.10.)

In the song called “Night”, all the terms are used in symbolic sense [sic], as in the prophetic books. It relates the [10] power of the passions, whether devouring loves or destructive angers, when mind has gone down into the darkness of experience from the light of imagination, as when “Urizen fell as the midday Sun down into the West’ (“Vala”, Night, VI, l.258; here pp.10-11.)

In the last, the “Voice of the Ancient Bard,” the symbolic identification of all is made clear. More is identified with the Image of Truth. The word Image here explains the use of the term Imagination, as equivalent to Christ as a spiritual body divinely present in each heart. Doubt, Clouds, and [11 ....; NLI photocopy discontinued]

Works of Blake - Vol. III: Wade 218; LL - Hall; 5pp. pl.91; image omitted RNP [O’Shea, 220].

[Facs.] pages are from Night, II, pp.22-25, and Night VI, pp.61-63; and facs. of title page. Annotations incl. ‘Urizen goes from South to East, &c.’ The reverse of his natural way, which is the track of the sun. Is this all his Fall? [Presumably, re-reading in 1900.]

WBY notices Gilchrist [December 10th 1825; Blake aetat. 68]: ‘Shall I call Blake artist, genius, mystic, or madman. Probably he is all. [...]’

Quotes Blake:

“[...] Everything is good in God’s eyes.” On my putting the obvious question - “is there nothing absolutely evil in what men do?” “I am no judge of that - perhaps not in God’s eyes.” / He sometimes spoke as if he denied altogether the existence of evil, and as if we had nothing to do with right or wrong, it being sufficient to commend all things alike as the work of God. Yet at other times he spoke of there being error in heaven. I asked about the moral character of Dante in writing his Vision [marginal emphasis by Yeats, 1900]. “Was he pure?” “Pure,” said Blake, “do you think here is any purity in God’s eyes? The angels in heave are no more so than we. ‘He chargeth his angels with folly.’”


‘From this subject [Dante, Milton, Locke and Atheism] we passed over to that of good and evil, on which he repeated his former assertions more decidedly. He allowed, indeed, that there are errors, mistakes, &c., and if these be evil, then there is evil. But these are only negations. Nor would he admit that any education should be attempted except the cultivation of imagination and the fine arts. What are called the vices in the natural world are the highest sublimities of the spiritual world .” [...] He reverted soon to his favourite expression, “my visions”. “I saw Milton and he told me to beware of being misled by his “Paradise Lost.” In particular, he wished me to show the falsehood of the doctrine that carnal pleasures arose from the Fall. “The Fall could not produce any pleasure.” [This sentence underlined by Yeats]. As he spoke of Milton’s appearing to him, I asked if he resembled the prints of him. He answered, “All.” “What age did he appear to be?” “Various ages. Sometime a very old man.” He spoke of Milton as being at one time a sort of classical Atheist, and of Dante as being now with God [underlined by Yeats, 1900.]. His faculty of vision, he says, he has had from early infancy. He thinks all men partake of it, but it is lost from want of cultivation. He eagerly assented to a remark I made that all men have all faculties to a greater or lesser degree. I am to continue my visits, and to read to him Wordsworth, of whom he seems to entertain high ideas.’


See also Gerald Eades Bentley & Martin K. Nurmi, A Blake Bibliography: Annotated List of Works, Studies, and Blakeana (Minnesota UP 1964) - citation of Yeats’s editions of Blake - in Yeats > Works > as attached.


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Poetical Works of William Blake, ed. & intro. by W. B. Yeats (London: George Routledge & Sons. Ltd. 1910), xlix, 277pp.

Physical description [BS]: Spine in calf; gold line on borders; boards in cloth] Titlepage: Mr William Butler Yeats introduces the Poetical Works of William Blake, born in 1757, died in 1827 as the second volume in the series of “Books that marked Epochs’, published in the year 1910 by GEORGE ROUTLEDGE [.&c.]. Contents: Introduction, xi-xlix; “Poetical Sketches” [3-44; incls. “King Edward the Third”, pp.17-44]; “Songs of Innocence” [47-62]; “Songs of Experience” [65-85]; “Ideas of Good and Evil” [89-144]; “The Prophetic Books” [147-236]; “Prose Fragments [239; includes “Natural Religion”]; Notes [261].

Note on “Ideas of Good and Evil” (p.89)

The MS Book has upon its title-page the above inscription, which was possibly a first and rejected attempt towards a title for the poems afterwards called “The Songs of Innocence and Experience”, but probably first thought for a title of “The Songs of Experience” alone, ‘experience’ and eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil being one and the same in Blake’s philosophy. The first possibility is made unlikely by the fact that the MS. book contains none of “The Songs of Innocence,” which therefore probably preceded it. If this be so, it might have been begun between 1789 and 1794. He kept it by him well-night all his life, and jotted down in it a record of all manner of wayward moods and fancies. The title “Ideas of Good and Evil” was soon forgotten, but, having at any rate his partial sanction, may well serve us better than such unnaming and uncomely titles as “Later Poems” or “Miscellaneous Poems”. The editor follows the example of Gilchrist’s book in including under the title poems from other sources than the MS. book. [...] (p.267.)

‘Early in the eighteenth century a certain John O’Neil got into debt and difficulties, these latter apparently political to some extent; and escaped both my marrying a woman called Ellen Blake, who kept a shebeen at Rathmines, Co. Dublin and taking her name. He had a son James, I am told, by a previous wife or mistress, and this son took also the name of Blake, and in due course married, settled in London as a hosier, and became the father of five children, one of whom was the subject of this memoir. John O’Neil had also a son by his wife Ellen; and this son, settling in Malaga, in Spain, entered the wine trade, and became the founder of a family, and from one of this family, Dr. Carter Blake, I have this story. [...; xi].
Swedenborg had said that the old world ended, and a new began, in the year 1757. From that day forward the old theologies were rolled up like a scroll, and the new Jerusalem came upon the earth. How often this prophecy concerning the year of his birth may have rung in the ears of William Blake we know not; but certainly it could hardly have done other than ring there, when his strange gift began to develop and fill the darkness with shadowy faces and green meadows with phantom footsteps. [...] In later life he called the seeing of visions being in Eden; and on his system Eden came again when the old theology passed away. The profound sanity of his inspiration is proved by his never having, no matter how great the contrast between himself and the blind men and women about him, pronounced himself to be chosen and set apart alone among men. Wiser than Swedenborg, he saw that he had but what all men might have if they would, and that God spoke through him but as He had spoken through the great men of all ages and countries.
[Vide, “There is No Natural Religion” - I. The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness.(This edn., p.257.)]
The Argument: As the true method of knowledge is experiment, the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences. This faculty I treat of.
Principle First: That the poetic genius is the true man, and that the body or outward form of man is derived from the poetic genius. [256]
 Likewise that the form of things are derived from their genius, which by the ancients was called an angel and spirit and demon.
Principle Second: As all men are alike in outward form, so (and with the same infinite variety), all are alike in the poetic genius.
Principle Third: No man can think, write or speak from his ear, but he must intend truth. Thus all sects of philosophy are form the poetic genius, adapted to the weaknesses of every individual.
Principle Fifth: The religions of all national are derived from each nations different reception of the poetic genius which is everywhere called the spirit of prophecy. [...] Principle Seventh. As all men are alike (though infinitely various), so all religions, and as all similars have one source.

 Further [?location]: The true man is the source, he being the poetic genius.’ Further. ‘man cannot naturally perceive but through his natural or bodily organs’.

The essentials of the teaching of “The Prophetic Books” can be best explained by extracts mainly from the “prose writings”, for the language of the books themselves is exceedingly technical. “God is in the lowest effects as well as in the highest causes,” he wrote on the margin of a copy of Lavater’s Aphorisms. “For let it be remembered that creation is God descending according to the weakness of man. Our Lord is the word of God, and everything on earth is the word of God, and in its essence is God.” That portion of creation, however, which we can touch and see with our bodily senses is “infected” with the power of Satan, one of whose names is “Opacity”; whereas that other portion which we can touch and see with the spiritual senses, and which we call “imagination”, is truly, “the body of God”, and the only reality; but we must struggle to really mount towards that imaginative world, and not allow ourselves to be deceived by “memory” disguising itself as imagination. We must mount by poetry, music, and art, which seek for ever “to cast off all that is not inspiration”, and “the rotten rags of memory”, and to become “the divine members”. For this reason, he says that Christ’s apostles were all artists, and [xxxii] that “Christianity is art”, and [“]the whole business of man is the arts”, that “Israel delivered from Egypt is art delivered from nature and imitation”; and that we should all engage “before the world in some mental pursuit”. We must take some portion of the kingdom of darkness, of the void in which we live, and by “circumcising away the indefinite”, with a “firm and determinate outline”, make that portion a “tent of God”, for we must always remember that God lives alone, “in minute particulars” in life made beautiful and graceful and vital by imaginative significance, and that all worthy things, all worthy deeds, all worthy thoughts, are works of art and imagination. In so far as we do such works we drive the mortality, the infection out of the things we touch and see and make them exist for our spiritual senses - “the enlarged and numerous senses”; and beholding beauty and truth we see no more “accident and chance”, and the indefinite void “and a last judgement “passes over us, and the world is consumed,” for things are “burnt up” “when you cease to behold them.”
“Reason”, or the argument from the memory and from the sensations of the body, binds us to Satan and opacity, and is the only enemy of God. Sin awakens imagination because it is from emotion, and is therefore dearer to God than reason, which is wholly dead. Sin, however, must be [xxxiii] avoided, because we are prisoners, and should keep the rules of our prison house, for “you cannot have liberty in this world without what you call moral virtue, and you cannot have moral virtue without the subjection of that half of the human race who hate what you call moral virtue.” But let us recognise that these laws are but “the laws of prudence”, and do not let us call them “the laws of God”, for nothing is pleasing to God except the glad invention of beautiful and exalted things. He holds it better indeed for us to break all the commandment than to sink into a dead compliance. Better any form of imaginary evil - any lust or any hate - rather than an unimaginative virtue, for “the human imagination alone” is “the divine vision and fruition” “in which man liveth eternally.” “It is the human existence itself.” “I care not whether a man is good or bad,” he makes Los, the “eternal mind”, say in Jerusalem; “all that I care is whether he is a wise man or a fool. Go, put off holiness and put on intellect.” By intellect he means imagination. He who recognises imagination for his God need trouble no more about the law, for he will do naught to injure his brother, for we love all which enters truly into our imagination, and by imagination must all life become one, for a man liveth not but in his brother’s face and by those “loves and tears of [xxxiv] brothers, sisters, sons, fathers, and friends, which if man ceases to behold he ceases to exist.”
The great contest of imagination with reason is described throughout “The Prophetic Books” under many symbols, but chiefly under the symbolic conflict of Los, the divine formative principle which comes midway between absolute existence and corporeal life, with Urizen, “the God of this world” and maker of dead law and blind negation. Blake considered this doctrine to be of the utmost importance, and claimed to have written it under the dictation of spiritual presences. “I have written this poem from immediate dictation,” he wrote, of “Jerusalem”, “twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time without premeditation, and even against my will. The time it has taken in writing was thus rendered non-existent, and an immense poem exists which seems the labour of a long life, all produced without labour or study.” It is not possible in a short essay like the present to do more than record these things, for to discuss and to consider what these presences we would need many pages. Whatsoever they were, presences or mere imaginings, the words they dictated remain for our wonder and delight. There is not one among these words which is other than significance and precise to the laborious [xxxv] student, and many passages of simple poetry and the marvel of the pictures remain for all who cannot or will not give the needed labour. Merlin’s book lies open before us, and if we cannot decipher its mysterious symbols, then we may dream over the melody of evocations that are not for our conjuring, and over the strange colours and woven forms of the spread pages. [pp.xxxii-xxxvi.]
Intro. ends: ‘Boehme held himself permitted to speak of much only among his “schoolfellows”; and Blake held there were listeners in other worlds than this. He knew, despite the neglect and scorn of his time, tha fame even upon the earth would be granted him, and that his work was done, for the Eternal Powers do not labour in vain.’

[Ends with verses: ‘Re-engraved time after time, / Ever in their youthful prime; / My designs unchanged remain, / Time may rage but rage in vain. / For above Time’s troubled fountains, / On the great Atlantic mountains, / In my golden house on high, / There they shine eternally.’ (p.xlix; end Intro.)

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S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake (Brown UP 1965).

Maurice Eaves, Intro. to Foster S. Damon, A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake [updated edition; with a new foreword and annotated bibliogrpahy by Morris Eaves] (Dartmouth College Press [New England UP] 2013).

Bibl. details: S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake [1965, 1988] (Brown UP 2013), xii, 460, ill. Damon lived on till 1971 - as Morris Eaves’s preface to the 2013 edition tells us. There the Dictionary, which Damon issued in 1965, is described as the successor to, and an annotated index of, his earlier work, William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols (London: Constable & Co. 1924), xv, 487pp., ill.; 27 cm. Both works are held in the National Library of Ireland, the earlier - and second-named - as YL 463, being part of W. B. Yeats’s personal library donated by the Yeats family.]

Introduction [Morris Eaves]:

[Damon's:] ‘[...] Philosophy and Symbols had already become part of that history [i.e., Pound and Yeats’s modernisation of poetry in Stone Cottage], and were destined to become much more important parts with Yeats’s increasing devotion to the kind of philosophical symbolism that culminated in A Vision (1925). Blake had already influenced the development of Yeats’s symbolism, and Yeats with his collaborator Edwin J. Ellis had edited Blake’s complete works and supplied to volumes of commentary in 1892. Damon once called the first volume “unreadable” (“How I Discovered Blake”, p.2). Indeed, it [xii] took a Foster Damon to write a readable replacement for Yeats and Ellis. But that should not be taken to suffest that we can understand Damon’s Blake without understanding the decisive alliance between Blake’s literary fortunes and the fortunes of modernism. [...] Blake and modernism belong together, not necessarily within the strand that was spare and taut in its verbal standards, bu tin the mythopoeic strand that wanted to make poetry the cult object for an elite society in initiates who would deal only in the deepest, most significant kinds of knowledge, of which the world at large was unworthy. [...] We would hardly be the first to notice that Damon’s Blake is a mystic of a particularly artistic persuasion, for whom the goal of seeing the face of god becomes a vision of artistic imagination - a magico-aesthert mysticism we associate more with initiates of the Order of the Golden Dawn, the late nineteeth-century occultists, and poets on the order of William Butler Yeats [sic] than with the author of The Cloud of Unknowing. (pp.xii-xiii.)

Bibl.: Cites [inter al.,] Alexander Gilchrist, Life of William Blake, “Pictor Ignotus” [1863; 2nd edn.], 2 vols. (London: Macmillan 1880); David V. Erdman, with commentary by Harold Bloom, The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake [rev. edn.] (NY: Doubleday 1988) [note searchable version at William Blake Archive.]


Beulah (pp.42-45).
“Beulah” - Hebrew ‘married’ - the promised land as given in Isaiah, LXII:4; in Blake’s system, Beulah is the realm of the Subconscious [and] the source of poetic inspiration and dreams. (p.42.)

But for Generated Man to enter Beulah, special gates are required. Each Daughter of Albion and each Emanation has three: one each in head, heart and loins (FZ, viii: 59; Mil. 5:7); they are called the Heavens of Beulah (Mil. 2:5, 5:7, 20:2; 26:20).

Los’s city of art, Golgonooza, has four gates, each fourfold, and each of the fourfold has an opening into Beulah. [Northern Gate (gold, silver, brass and iron), Western and Eastern Gates (stone), South Gate (precious stones) [my paraphrase; BS].

In the Four Zoas, when the Circle of Destiny is complete, they give it a space and name it Ulro, then close the Gate of the Tongue (west) in trembling fear. (Damon, p.43.)

The Dead of Beulah fall into Ulro by bursting through the bottom of the graces; they are the Spectres for whom Enitharmon weaves forms so that they can be born into this world. (p.44.)

The Four Zoas
[...] For a proper epical setting, Blake has now organised a fourfold universe (psychological, not Ptolemaic or Copernican), dividing it into sunny Eden (the Eternity of the Zoas), moony Beulah (the subconscious), Urizen’s starry realm (law), and Ulro (the earth world of generation.) (p.142.)

Ulro (pp.416-17).
Ulro is the material world; The heavens of Ulro are the thrice nine revolving Twenty-seven Heavens of Beulah, “a might circle turning” (Eur 10:23),

Ulro is the space of the terrible starry wheel of Albion’s sons (J 12:51.) Blake placed Beulah as an intermediary between Eternity and Ulro (this world of matter).

Available online; accessed 23.04.2015.

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Kathleen Raine, Yeats the Initiate: Essays on Certain Themes in the Work of W. B. Yeats [1986] (NY: Barnes & Noble 1990).

Chap. V: Yeats’s Debt to Blake
Remarks on Blake among the artists at Bedford Park, ‘amounting almost to a cult, shared by the group as a whole’, when Yeats was growing-up there. ( p.82.)

Chap. VI: From Blake to a Vision
If I treat Yeats’s indebtedness to Blake as if this were that of a scholar it is not in order to deny that he had also made contact with that “other”mind which had given Blake his mandala of the Four Zoas and the City of Golgonooza, but Blake’s system undoubtedly gave Yeats the ground-plan of his own. The basic structure of A Vision is already to be found in the Ellis and Yeats commentaries. Yeats was to write, in his Introduction to the second version of A Vision, of the “arbitrary, harsh and difficult symbolism” that “has almost always accompanied expression that unites the sleeping and the waking mind.” (V, II, 23.) he instances “Cabala”, the complicated mathematical diagrams of Dee and Kelly, the diagrams in Law’s Boehme which Blake thought “equal to Michelangelo” [sic] but “remains himself almost [111] unintelligible because he never drew the like”. No reader of A Vision can complain of any lack of complicated diagrams, and the young Yeats did his best to draw Blake’s diagrams for him.

 Any student unfamiliar with Blake and with the esoteric tradition and hoping to find in the Ellis and Yeats commentaries an easy introduction, will find only explanations of the obscure by the more obscure. Yet the same student, rereading this commentary in possession of such knowledge, will discover it to be by far th emost significant yet written in its grassp of the nature and import of Blake’s symbolic thought. Of the Ellis and Yeats commentaries the sectons on the symbolic system are known to have been written by Yeats, though the authors state that nothing was written by either without consultation. We also know that the introductory essay entitled “the necessity of symbolism” is Yeats’s work and in this important essay he formulates Blake’s (and his own) challenge to the view that natural and spiritual things are of the same order:

All such solutions according to him [Blake], arise from the belief that natural and spiritual things do not differ in kind; for if they do so differ, no mere analysis of nature as it exists outside our minds can solve the problem of mental life. This absolute difference may be described as the first postulate of all mystics. [EY, 1, 236; Raine, p.112.]

Yeats supports his works with a long quotation from Swedenborg: whoever, says, Swedenborg, cannot distinguish between the exterior and interior faculties of man “cannot be acquainted with the difference between the spiritual world and the natural, or betwween the spirit of man and his body.”Because the materialist sees “continuous”where he should see “discrete", this distinction, th efirst essential to the udnerstanding both of Blake and Yeats, eludes his comprehension. (pp.111-12.)

[On Urizon, Los, Luvah, and Tharmas (reason, intuition, feeling, and sensation):] The Four [Zoas] are sometimes called the “four faces” of Albion (the collective being of the Englsh nation). Blake also describes them as rulers of th efour directions of inner space, and as “unverses” or “suns” “They are the Four Zoas in that stood around the Throne Divine” whch are, Blake says, “in every man.”

 Blake described several mandala structures but drew only [113] one, an exeemley important one in this context; it occurs in the poem Milton and depicts the four “universes” or Zoas as spheres touching one another and intersected by an egg-shaped structure which occupies the central space, the “mundane shell” or world-egg. (113-14.)

Four Universes round the Mundane Egg remain Chaotic, / One to the North, named Urthona: One to the South, named Urizen: / One to the East, named Luvah: One to the West, named Tharmas: / They are the four Zoas that stood around the Throne Divine. [M. 19, K 500] (114).

[...]Y eats combines Plato with Boehme when he writes that the Holy Spirit “wakes into being the numberless thought-forms in the great mirror”:

"God looking into this mirror, ceases to be mere will, beholds Himself as the Son, His love for His own unity, His self-consciousness, and enters on that eternal meditatoin about Himself which is called the Holy Spirit. [EY, 1, 247.] (Raine, 118.)

[..] Blake’s Zoas become not so much universes as polarised fields of mutual attraction and repulsion, anticipating Yeats’s own quaternity, in A Vision, of paired opposites: Will (Blake’s Luvah) and Mask (Blake’s Tharmas) - feeling and its object - Creative Mind (Urizen) and Body of Fate (Los) - thought and its object. The emphasis with Yeats is on the polarity of the pairs, and is already foreshadowed in the Blake commentary:

The Will looks into a painted picture. The Creative Mind looks into a photograph, but both look into something which is the [Raine, 120] opposite of themselves. The picture is that which is chosen, while the photograph is heterogeneous. the photograph is fated, because by fate is understood that which comes from without, whereas Mask is predesined, Destiny being that whcih comes to us from within. [AV, I, 15.]

Yeats’s Mask corresponds to Blake’s tharmas, called the “demon of the waters” [...] (121) diagram from AV, 1925, 13.


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