Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Albion - Excerpts from William Blake’s poetic visions of Albion

“Blake's prophetic message was to his own nation, England, the Giant Albion; and in a lesser degree to other Western nations, France and America in particular. He called himself a 'prophet', in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets whose words were directed to their nation and concerned national life. Blake, unread and misunderstood in his own lifetime, seems to many to speak especially to the present generation. We now begin to possess the knowledge - especially of the archetypal structure of the human psyche - which enables us to comprehend many things he wrote which were incomprehensible at the turn of the eighteenth century. He believed himself to be inspired; by what in earlier ages would have been called a God, or the Holy Spirit. Now that inspiring genius has other names - Yeats's anima mundi, C. G. Jung's 'Collective Unconscious' or transpersonal Self. But by whatever name, the communications of that 'other' mind are of an order beyond any personal construction or fantasy; they concern us all, for they are spoken by the Imagination to the imagination. Blake knew that he was the messenger to his nation from the higher and inner worlds; and he took upon himself to deliver that message to deaf ears, to obdurate opinion, to indifference. In symbolic narrative, in pictorial image, in rational argument and in the exaltation of poetry he strove to awaken the national consciousness to the vision he himself so clearly beheld.”

Kathleen Raine
London, May 1978

William Blake’s epic poem Jerusalem has within its complex array of symbolism some simple visions of “the best of Albion”, or, a glimpse of what Albion and those people dwelling within it may be capable of with applied will and dedication.

Personal concepts of "Albion" appear to develop in depth and breadth as life experiences and understanding evolves. Albion can start off for some rather simply as the ancient name for the personified "land of Britain". However, for Blake, Albion is often portrayed as a Titan or giant guardian of the British Isles and all who live upon its "ancient Druid rocky shore." Albion is seen as a transforming living being symbolising the complexity and contradictions of Humanity … seen through the imperfect eyes of an English visionary, artist, poet and mystic.

Ultimately Blake's material provides the questing soul with much nourishment, inspiration and challenge.

His opus Jerusalem perhaps presents a mature vision of Albion from Blake’s later years. 

Some of the most compelling lines of this vast work are captured and included below for you to ponder, contemplate, read out loud or meditate on:

“I behold London ; a Human awful wonder of God!
He says, Return, Albion, return! I give myself for thee:
My Streets are my Ideas of Imagination.
Awake Albion, awake! and let us awake up together.
My Houses are Thoughts; my Inhabitants, Affections,
The children of my thoughts, walking within my blood-vessels…”


“Why stand we here trembling around,

Calling on God for help, and not ourselves,

in whom God dwells,

Stretching a hand to save the falling Man?”


“That Man subsists by Brotherhood and Universal Love.

Not for ourselves but for the Eternal family we live.

Man liveth not by Self alone……”


“They came up to Jerusalem: they walked before Albion.
In the Exchanges of London every Nation walk'd,
And London walk'd in every Nation, mutual in love and harmony.
Albion cover'd the whole Earth, England encompass'd the Nations,
 Mutual each within other's bosom in Visions of Regeneration:
Jerusalem cover'd the Atlantic Mountains and the Erythrean,
From bright Japan and China to Hesperia, France and England.
Mount Zion lifted his head in every Nation under heaven:
And the Mount of Olives was beheld over the whole Earth.”


" All things Begin and End in Albion's Ancient Druid Rocky Shore."


“Saying, Albion! Our wars are wars of life, and wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, and long winged arrows of thought:
Mutual in one another's love and wrath all renewing
We live as One Man: for contracting our infinite senses
We behold multitude: or expanding, we behold as one.
As One Man all the Universal Family…”


“…To Create a World of Generation from the World of Death.”


“…Of Redemption and of awaking again into Eternity.”


“…I am the Resurrection and the Life.
I Die and pass the limits of possibility, as it appears
To individual perception. Luvah must be Created,
And Vala; for I cannot leave them in the gnawing Grave,
But will prepare a way for my banished-ones to return.
Come now with me into the villages, walk thro' all the cities :
Tho' thou art taken to prison and judgment, starved in the streets,
I will command the cloud to give thee food and the hard rock
To flow with milk and wine, tho' thou seest me not a season,
Even a long season, and a hard journey and a howling wilderness...”

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