blake-d Digest				Volume 1996 : Issue 86

Today's Topics:

	 Re: Scaffolds of the mind

	 RE: Blake and the Country versus City

	 Re: A note on the "Escalator Dilema"

	 Re: Percy's Reliques in Ackroyd's book

	 Re: Voltaire and Rousseau; new biblical criticism

	  Re: Quest Literature, Sci-Fi, etc. -Reply -Reply -Reply

	  Re:  Scaffolds of the mind -Reply

	 RE: Scaffolds of the mind

	 Re: Quest Literature, Sci-Fi, etc.

	 Blake and Those He Needs To Correct

	 Re:  Scaffolds of the mind

	 RE: Scaffolds of the mind

	 Re: The case of the disappearing context

	 RE: Scaffolds of the mind

	 Jesus the Revolutionary

	 Re:  Scaffolds of the mind -Reply

	  Emerson Reflections on Blake -Reply


Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 10:12:07 -0700 (PDT)

From: Matthew J Dubuque 


Subject: Re: Scaffolds of the mind


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To all-

	I am in substantial agreement with this.  On the whole, I have

enjoyed his posts lately, and have learned from them.

On Fri, 12 Jul 1996,

Izak Bouwer wrote:


>    Just when Ralph Dumain begins a serious attempt

> to formulate his thoughts (rather than vituperate), he

> gets hit out of left field. Maybe he deserves as good

> as he got, but I for one am interested in what he has to

> say, so let us be patient and give him  a chance. I have

> started a file for him, and I am waiting for what he has

> to say next.


Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 12:42:02 -0600

From: (jennifer michael)


Subject: RE: Blake and the Country versus City


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>Don't confuse pastoral as a form with any real interest in the countryside.

>Pastoral is about a lot of things, but it is *not* about tending sheep.

>Blake'spastoral is, like most pastorals before his, about the fragility of

>a certain

>kind of mindset.  More to the point, it is just absurd to think that everyone

>that ever wrote a pastoral had some kind of hankering for the country.


>Paul Yoder

Exactly:  in fact, pastoral would not exist without an urban point of view

to create it.  Yet, once the pastoral is there, it's often used to

criticize the city as though the two existed, or could exist, independent

of one another.

Jennifer Michael


Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 17:50:29 -0400

From: (Tim Kitchen)


Subject: Re: A note on the "Escalator Dilema"

Message-Id: <>

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On July 9 Randal wrote:

>I see Blake clinging desperately to certain traditional ways...

>Why does he forsake typesetting in favor of handwriting, for example?

                              * * *

Did Blake indeed forsake typesetting in favour of handwriting or was

it technologically impossible to achieve the look and feel that Blake

wanted through typesetting?

Look at the way that art is intertwined with text in Blake's plates,

where there is a gap between verses - vines grow; where there is space

between a stanza and the edge of the page - a flock of birds take flight.

These are visual manifestations of the energy and exuberance

that Blake writes about.If his work was typeset all those spaces would

have had to be filled with strips of lead...all the organic forms

replaced with mechanical ones.

Compare his work on Young's "Night Thoughts" (which was typeset)

to just about any of his own books to see the difference in effect.

Tim Kitchen


Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 21:28:57 -0400 (EDT)

From: Alexander Gourlay 


Subject: Re: Percy's Reliques in Ackroyd's book


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According to Bentley's Blake Books, a copy of Percy's Reliques that Blake

gave to Mrs. Linnell is at Wellesley.  The inscription in it isn't by

Blake, and neither are the "trifling" emendations.  I haven't seen it, but

I guess Ackroyd found that some pages were dirty and supposed this was

evidence of study (which it probably is), and that the student was Blake. 

Like many an ink-stained wretch, Blake probably did get pages dirty when

he read them, and many of his books are pretty dirty, but I am always

leery of the assumption that a book Blake gave away was his own reading

copy.  The book has three volumes -- did Blake leave volumes two and three

untouched?  Why should he study it so throughly but make no notes?  On the

other hand, I guess it is more likely that Blake gave his own copy of

Percy to Mrs. Linnell than that the copy of Gray's poems he chopped up to

make the Gray illustrations was his reading copy -- it's more likely he

just bought a cheap copy somewhere for the purpose. 

Sandy Gourlay


Date: Sat, 13 Jul 1996 22:13:17 -0500 (CDT)

From: Rachel Wagner 



Subject: Re: Voltaire and Rousseau; new biblical criticism


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I know it is now two and a half months later, but believe it or not, I am 

just now sorting through mail from finals time.  Anyway--


I'm currently working on a seminar paper on Paine, Blake, and Watson, 

attempting to posit each within the new biblical criticism emerging on    

the continent in the late eighteenth century.  Jerome McGann believes 

Alexander Geddes to be the conduit by which Blake became aware of the 

new criticism.  What do you think?  Is it possible, as some propose, that 

it was simply "in the air," or did Blake have a specific conduit for this 

information?  Geddes suggests that a reading of Urizen is enhanced by 

assuming Blake was aware of some form of the documentary hypothesis and 

was imitating it in the structure of and ordering of the plates.  Of 

course, as always seems to be the case in deducing Blake's sources, this 

is sheer speculation.  What are others' thoughts on this?  It seems 

debate on the group tends more toward the existential, and I suppose this 

concern is more concrete, though it bears in no small way I believe on 

potential readings of Blake, especially the Prophecies.  

On Mon, 6 May 1996, Elisa E. Beshero 814 862-8914 wrote:

> In response to Mr. Albright,

>         I've been pondering Blake's use of the bible and his relationship with

> Paine and his thoughts on the revolutions too (just wrote a paper on it last

> year)  I think Blake (AND Paine) were responding to the millenialist

> evangelical religious movements that were popular in both England and America

> in the late 18th century, and whose ministers were instrumental in bringing

> about mass support for the revolution by convincing them that the old, elite

> order was corrupt. . . Check out Blake's address "To the Christians" in

> _Jerusalem_, and you'll see he mentions a few of the evangelicals (don't have

> my copy of Blake with me at this terminal. . . will look it up later).

>                                                   --Elisa


>   - - The original note follows - -


> Date: Sat, 4 May 1996 08:25:26 -0400

> To:

> From: (R.H. Albright)

> Subject: Voltaire and Rousseau Again

> Resent-From:

> Reply-To:


> Well, I'm going to boldly go where my first interpretation had not gone

> before and say a few more things about the short poem from BLAKE'S NOTEBOOK

> (circa 1802-04) that starts:


> "Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!

> Mock on, Mock on - 'tis all in vain!"


> This is Blake, the revolutionary turned cynic. Again, I think it's

> important to note how closely related cynicism and romanticism are, at

> times. You start with high hopes, they get blown back in your face, and you

> either cry or you yell out like Blake is doing in this poem.


> But he's not only disillusioned with the promise of The Enlightenment

> (although I would argue that Rousseau, in philosophy, is in fact a turning

> point toward Romanticism. You would have never heard the term "bleeding

> heart liberal" before him. Even Thomas Paine would say, "It just makes

> common sense...!").


> Blake is turning away from that revolutionary promise gone bad. His friend,

> Thomas Paine, at one point confidently said in England in the 1780s that

> monarchies would be a thing of the past virtually EVERYWHERE in Europe...

> and instead we have Napoleon imposing military dictatorship in 1799, and

> proclaiming "Empire" on May 18, 1804, while monarchs were either

> capitulating or being replaced by his relatives on the thrones of the

> Continent. The Age of Reason... NOT!


> Blake is seeking refuge in the Bible, probably, in its promise of

> vindication for "God's Chosen People." But what's interesting to me is that

> he's not looking to America, which probably seemed very far away, although

> the thoughts of Voltaire and Rousseau (as well as Locke, Paine, Jefferson,

> and others) were still very much alive there.


> Why retreat back into The Bible, after having written that "There is No

> Natural Religion" and been a one-time follower of Swedenborg, whose views

> pointed toward Unitarianism? This subject fascinates me. He's soothing

> himself with scriptures in the face of massive disruption to his world.

> Napoleon invading England? It wasn't out of the question. So reality is

> bearing down on him, and he's saying that, at least: "Israel's tents do

> shine so bright." Sure they do. In his mind.


> What do you think?




Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 11:04:05 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject:  Re: Quest Literature, Sci-Fi, etc. -Reply -Reply -Reply


Randall, In my Keynes edition of Milton, Plate 18,  Orc tries to overcome

the darkness of the Shadowy Female with his fires - as she darkens

`tenfold', so he brightens `tenfold' in order to waken the `Dead' from their

Sleep of Ages.  This brings out Urizen from his freezing haunts to strive

with Milton and try to douse the fires of his imagination with icy water.  It

seems to me that here the incessant battle between those who foster

`Life'  and those who foster ` Death'  is played out and that this conflict is

the central theme of the States which Blake evokes  and  through which

the contracting soul of sleeping Albion is dramatised.  Pam 


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 11:23:22 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 



Subject:  Re:  Scaffolds of the mind -Reply


What you say re needing to have as open a mind and deep as the writer

one is studying is highly relevant and exactly corresponds with my own

feelings as to why so many critics on BLake fall short.  Everything else

you say is equally invigorating but I think that one can't dismiss all that

forgiveness stuff in Blake as `crap'.  The need for forgiveness is central

to his themes as it is only through enlarging again the capacities for love

which became contracted in the Fall that one's full divine humanity can

be recovered.  In the Kabbalah, similarly, one has to restore the balance

between Hesed and Din ( or God's abundant outpouring of Love and the

rigour of Divine Judgement) which in Blake's cosmology is represented

by Urizen's seizure of power and inflation of moral law and

misinterpretation of good and evil.  Pam  van Schaik 


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 13:40:51 -0400

From: Nathan Miserocchi 


Subject: RE: Scaffolds of the mind

Message-Id: <>

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It's a bit late to be sticking my nose into this, but I'd rather

stick than let my mind hang from these scaffolds.  Let me see

if I can stir up trouble by asking what this "forgiveness" is

all about.

Certainly, as Pam van Schaik proposes, the idea of forgiveness

is key in Blake. But, like all such keys, it is a skeleton that unlocks many

doors, few of them leading to the same place.  What I'm

wondering is where to place and what to make of this "forgiveness 

of sins," because I certainly don't think it's a load of crap, Ralph...

atleast, not altogether. It exists in a holistic, "Christ-like" way when

considering the progression of Blake's mythology towards apocalypse.  The

awakening of Albion via the reconciliation of the Zoas, can easily be

regarded as atonement, and forgiveness, of mankind.  If one wants close

reading, look at how the Zoas reunite -- they kiss and make up, with a whole

lot of forgiveness of "sin" inherant in Pride and Jealousy.

On the other hand, who will forget that Apocalypse is preceeded, or induced,

or made up of the _mashing_ of all the "human grapes." A very sordid way of

forgiving one for their sins. At this point I'd say Blake was tyrannical and

bitter, if it weren't that the product of these "human grapes" is a sweet,

refined wine, if it weren't that this looks a heck of a lot like Revelation

(forgiveness->redemption->salvation). Peculiar as it is, I think I can also

see what Ralph Dumain was referring to when he wrote:

        Sure, the ancient Hebrews were a bunch of useless, smelly genocidal

savages.  The scientific and cultural achievements of the Greeks

were far superior.  However, in the war between Hellenism and

Hebraism, there is more to be said.  For Hellenism represents the

ethos of the "natural man" and the ruling class, and Blake's form         of

Hebraism -- revolutionary Christianity -- is a radical negation         of

the world as it is, and hence is critical and revolutionary,

however backward and insipid the Judaeo-Christian heritage is as a



That is, though reducing much from Ralph's thought, that Apocalypse, or

Revolution, is completely possible without forgiveness -- heck, Bubba,

we'll just blast away until we get it right.  Also, that Blake considered

many things, including "original sin," to indeed be a load of "crap," speaks

in Ralph's favor (that Blake never practiced forgiveness of sins, etc.). But

I still don't think Blake was turned on by this idea, even if he was

embittered and unforgiving enough to attack his "friends" and enemies in his

work, or scribble nasty, caustic things in the margins of the books he read.

If nothing else, the redemption of Albion in _The Zoas_ calls for a

forgiveness of Pride and Jealousy, among other things, before the Zoas can

reunite and wipe away the "old" humanity and Albion can rise, the "new"


This makes me ask a few questions appropos "forgiveness of sin" in 

Blake.  One, how "Christ-like" is the forgiveness Blake practices.

Two, is it indeed "sin" that needs forgiving?  It seems I'm back

where I started from.  Any thoughts about the role, design and

question of forgiveness in Blake?  Perhaps Ralph could elaborate

more on his position that Blake never practiced "forgiveness of



Nathan Miserocchi


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 15:16:17 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)


Subject: Re: Quest Literature, Sci-Fi, etc.


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That's an interesting post, Pam.

-Randall Albright

>Randall, In my Keynes edition of Milton, Plate 18,  Orc tries to overcome

>the darkness of the Shadowy Female with his fires - as she darkens

>`tenfold', so he brightens `tenfold' in order to waken the `Dead' from their

>Sleep of Ages.  This brings out Urizen from his freezing haunts to strive

>with Milton and try to douse the fires of his imagination with icy water.  It

>seems to me that here the incessant battle between those who foster

>`Life'  and those who foster ` Death'  is played out and that this conflict is

>the central theme of the States which Blake evokes  and  through which

>the contracting soul of sleeping Albion is dramatised.  Pam


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 15:17:17 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)


Subject: Blake and Those He Needs To Correct


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"It is easier to forgive an Enemy than to forgive a Friend."

        ---plate 91, line 1

Interesting, contrarian view to what I usually think. Despite his flaws,

I'd take William Blake over Hitler any day. But it does explain why Bacon,

Swedenborg, Voltaire, Rousseau, Newton and others get lambasted with him.

Writing on Bacon's essays, according to S. Foster Damon, Blake says things

I wish he had put into his official canon:

"Man is not improved by the hurt of another."

"States are not improved at the expense of foreigners."

To me, these tie in with the best of what Karl Marx was critiquing in

capitalism. There was and is this theory, that works disturbingly well, of

empire and war as the way to keep capitalism's flamed stoked. By saying it

both at the individual as well as societal "state" level, Blake has a

legitimate and timeless point. If it's rephrased somewhere in the official

canon, could someone please point me there? And, hey, since we're dealing

in metaphor, it doesn't have to be a perfect connection.

-Randall Albright


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 15:17:50 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)


Subject: Re:  Scaffolds of the mind


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Mr Dumain:

>How can you learn anything by conversing only with angels and not

>the devils who do all the work and suffering?  How can one fully

>understand Blake without understanding what enables him to appeal

>to people who hate Christianity and religion in general?  That is

>precisely what most demands explanation.  And that is part of my

>project.  I give you the end of a golden string ...

The fusion here of Marx, Blake, and your own point of view works well.

-Randall Albright


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 19:06:53 -0400

From: Scott A Leonard 


Subject: RE: Scaffolds of the mind

Message-Id: <>

Nathan & co.

I tuned in late to this conversation. Did Ralph really characterize the

ancient Hebrews as useless, smelly savages inferior to the Greeks?

Isn't this where Disraeli steps in from the shadows of the nether world

to remind us that while the forebears of the Classical Greeks we so

admire were casting rude pots and killing their children to encourage

the return of fertility in the spring that the smelly Hebrews (there's that

ancient libel about personal hygene again) had built Solomon's temple,

and created a legal code of ethical and moral behavior so all-encompassing

and nuanced that it has engendered nearly three millenia of scholarship

not to mention emulation?  

Well, o.k. it's not quite what Disraeli said and clearly not the point

of what is otherwise an interesting discussion about Blake and 


Scott A. Leonard,

youngstown state u


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 21:00:44 -0400 (EDT)

From: Izak and Gloudina Bouwer 


Subject: Re: The case of the disappearing context

Message-Id: <>

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  Paul Yoder draws attention to " the most important and

baffling and unexplored element of Blake's rhetoric...

how does he create a situation in which the..ability to

remember..or to imagine what will happen short-


  Hubert Benoit in his analysis of the techniques of Zen

masters says the following:

    "The Zen Masters..incessantly put their disciples

     on guard against the intellect..warned them against

     its partially convergent utilization... their 

     'meaningless' and disconcerting replies are a clear

     indication in favour of the divergent use of language.

     The koan is a non-convergent text..."

Benoit then goes on to recommend as a mental exercise the

writing down of nonconvergent sentences to break the strangle-

hold of the convergent habit of thinking.

   Could it be that we go back and back to Blake's work also

for this reason - to have a taste of divergent thinking. Does

it bring relief, is it redemptive, even addictive?

Gloudina Bouwer


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 21:22:32 EST



Subject: RE: Scaffolds of the mind

Message-Id: <>

It seems to me that Scott Leonard had better read the Book of Joshua again, and

this time closely. If ever Ezra Pound was right, it was that "these books" are

a prime example of a "gangster's handbook." Just imagine: "I gave you land you

never worked, you live in towns you never built, and now you eat from vineyards

and olive-yards you never planted." If there was ever a definition of a virus,

this is it! And in their own handbook!! Can you believe it??

Christopher Hottel


Gilmanton NH


Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 00:00:33 -0400 (EDT)

From: Izak and Gloudina Bouwer 


Subject: Jesus the Revolutionary

Message-Id: <>

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

  Ralph Dumain, way back on April 3 you said:"Jesus

as the annihilator of the moral system of the silly

Greek and Roman slaves of the sword and all like them

is critical and revolutionary." Recently you urged us

to take a closer look at the role of Jesus in Blake's

system. I assume you will be doing that in the weeks

and months to come. (Take your time, we will be patient.)

  I hope in the process that you will also be touching

on the phenomenon of Golgonooza, another part of the 

Blake canon that has been scandalously neglected by most

Blake critics.I do not mean that they do not talk about

it. But so many of them will "explain" Golgonooza on one

page (usually in a few sentences) and ten pages later will

say something completely different about it, hoping that

we won't notice. (Maybe they don't notice it themselves.)

  I believe that the subject of Jesus in Blake's system,

and also the subject of Golgonooza, lie at the very heart

of what Blake is all about.

  So good luck in your endeavour. The only question in my

mind is this : how will your revolutionary Jesus play in

Marxist Peoria?

Gloudina Bouwer


Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 21:07:44 -0700 (PDT)

From: Ralph Dumain 



Subject: Re:  Scaffolds of the mind -Reply

Message-Id: <>

I thank Pam van Schaik and others for their thoughtful responses.

This time let me reply to van Schaik.

>What you say re needing to have as open a mind and deep as the

>writer one is studying is highly relevant and exactly

>corresponds with my own feelings as to why so many critics on

>Blake fall short.

There are many things one can be professionally trained to do, but

I think the art of interpretation, because it involves the basic

presuppositions with which one judges any phenomenon, goes beyond

simple professional training.  You can learn how to analyze the

syntax and placement of this comma or that period in a sentence,

or analyze the surface complexities of any text, but having a feel

for underlying assumptions and judgements about human experience

and institutions is another talent altogether.  Much of literary

interpretation, and this begins in the brainwashing about

literature that goes on in elementary school, is designed

expressly to piddle on about trivialities whilst perversely

overlooking the essential philosophical outlook of the author.

Yet interpretation in literature as in life is only as profound

and perceptive as the person doing it.  There is no effective

difference: if you cannot understand what is going on in real

life, you can't do it in literature and the arts, and vice versa.

And if you think you have the right to compartmentalize life, and

be a professional from 9 to 5 and an uncritical moron in your free

time, say like a psychiatrist, you are deceiving yourself; you're

just relying on the crutches your privileged professional position

gives you, to insulate you from being subject to the same judgment

which your institutionalized position allows you to apply to

others.  I find people's shallowness especially galling when

applied to Blake, because Blake has given us the most profound

critique of human motivations and institutions of all time and so

demands more than most other authors.  But it is impossible for a

greater than oneself to know.

>I think that one can't dismiss all that forgiveness stuff in

>Blake as `crap'.

I think one needs to differentiate the instances in which

forgiveness can really apply according to Blake.  Unconditional

forgiveness strikes me as mere doctrinal propaganda without real

conviction and a violation of Blake's own street smarts.  My two

theses are this: that forgiveness of sins is important to Blake to

absolve the poor from the accusations of the rich and to overthrow

the institutionalized morality and system of punishment of the

ruling class.  (Which was very deadly in Blake's time, much

deadlier than now.)  My other thesis is that Blake would never

forgive anyone who ever slighted him, especially when that person

has power over his destiny and poses a continuing threat to his

existence.  Somewhere Blake writes forgiveness is impossible

unless the culprit performs a last judgement on himself and thus

intends to do no more harm.  Blake may not believe in vengeance,

but he is no fool: he has no intention of allowing himself to

submit to continual abuse.  Nobody can conform to Christian

morality and nobody even intends to.  These ridiculous rules

cannot be obeyed.  "Obey your humanities and do not pretend

holiness."  Blake is very street-wise.  The Songs of Experience

exist among other things to show that pure goodness is an

impossibility: if you want to survive in this world you can't be a

goody-two-shoes; you have to know whom you are dealing with at all

times.  The "cynicism" of the Songs of Experience is to guide the

reader through the contradictory world in which he lives.  When

one has to live in the jungle, the very first rule is to make sure

at the end of the day that you don't get eaten.  "Why do you of

the sheep not learn peace / Because I don't want you to sheer my

fleece."  In this context, conventional Christian morality is

utterly useless, and Blake knew it.

I don't think Blake's doctrine of forgiveness of sins is all just

crap, but we need to look at the context in which Blake expresses

real conviction.  Blake wants to open up the prisons and free the

oppressed from the morality and the judgements of the ruling

class, from Urizen on down to Newt Gingrich, who pounce upon every

human weakness of the have-nots, which they are responsible for

creating and exacerbating in the first place, and then pronounce

the severest judgement on people who can't be perfect under the

pressure that grinds them down and induces them to give in to

various temptations.   Forgiveness of sins annuls the

self-righteous morality of the ruling class and frees the slave.

That is where you have real conviction in Blake.

But when Blake writes -- what is a little sin but a trifle that is

soon forgotten?  -- I don't believe that any of it is sincere.

Maybe this says something about me rather than Blake, but I'm

telling you, Blake was a very realistic cat most times, and he

held champion grudges against people who wronged him and even

against those who helped him but whose spiritual influence he

deemed negative.  I can't believe a person who says "What to

others a trifle appears / fills me full of smiles or tears" would

say something so offhand about the forgiveness of sins and really

believe it, and that's why I called it crap.  I can't believe

Blake really felt what he wrote here, but rather he was trying to

convince himself he believed in it.  You can't forgive anybody for

anything until that person is no longer a danger to you.  I

couldn't survive one day in Washington and neither could Blake

based on namby-pamby Christian nonsense, and of course none of the

hypocritical Bible-humpers here could do it either or even make an

effort to.  But what poor people do understand is that their own

vices reflect the pressures which they are under, and they are not

necessarily irredeemable because they slip up.  This is the class

dimension of morality, and I say Blake's real conviction regarding

the forgiveness of sins is based on class consciousness.


Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 11:58:10 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject:  Emerson Reflections on Blake -Reply


I think there is much in the passages you quote  from Emerson which

Blake would have liked very much.   Pam


End of blake-d Digest V1996 Issue #86