Blake List — Volume 1998 : Issue 58

Today's Topics:
	 Re: Blake and "madness" -- List moderator? -Reply
	 the triad of vision
	 Chimney Sweeper
	       Blake and "disease"
	 Finn Coren - The Blake Project
	 Lafcadio Hearn
	 Re: Blake and "madness"
	 Re: / criticisms. - Angels
	 Re: the triad of vision
	 Re: Blake and "madness" -Reply
	 Re: Chimney Sweeper
	 Re: Blake and "madness"


Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 08:57:52 -0400
From: "c. c. carpenter II" 
Subject: Re: Blake and "madness" -- List moderator? -Reply
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Perhaps it is because so many of us deny the supernatural, that we mistake
Blake's congruency with it for madness...

clint carpenter II

P Van Schaik wrote:

> At the risk of seeming mad myself, I have to say that it is not only when
> one is about to die that one can see (or hear) from dead relatives. They
> sometimes come to tell one that they have just died, as was the case
> with my grandmother whose voice I heard very clearly one morning (in
> my own head) as I was bathing.  I was surprised into replying with a
> question: "Are  you feeling better?" (as she was in hospital after a stroke
> and her voice sounded very clear).  She replied: "No, I'm dead!" and
> minutes later, at work, I heard the news that she was.
> Now, if this is possible, then Blake could have heard from the spirit world
> - or mistaken his subconscious promptings for such -- while walking in
> the fields.
> Ed. re being pushed into one of three choices, I was replying to Tom
> Devine's posting.
> Pam

"A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the modern philosophy
supposes, a cloudy vapour, or a nothing: they are organized
and minutely articulated beyond all that the mortal and
perishing nature can produce.  He who does not imagine in
stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger and better
light than his perishing, mortal eye can see, does not
imagine at all." (_DC_ "The Bard, from Gray" K576)

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Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 09:10:07 -0400
From: Robert Anderson 
Subject: the triad of vision
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Perhaps this is off-topic, but I think this account neglects the violence
and loss of the poem's account of the creativity: "pluck'd--not took--a
hollow reed" and "stained the water clear" as well as the fact that the
child "vanish'd" as soon as--or even before--the piper begins writing it=

Rob Anderson

>For instance, we see these three qualities in the Piper's actions in the
>introduction to Innocence.   He says, "And I took a hollow reed/And I made
>a rural pen/And I stain'd the waters clear=85."  This progression reveals
>Optical Vision (seeing something as possibly being beneficial), Directed
>Vision (having the motivation to make it beneficial) and, finally,
>Imaginative Vision (taking knowledge and creativity, in order to make the
>element the most beneficial).   Furthermore, Blake puts a final directive
>on Vision:  one must share it with others.  This indicator  is seen in the
>fact that the Piper must write his songs for "all" to hear.  =20


Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 09:34:13 -0400
From: Robert Anderson 
Subject: Chimney Sweeper
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At the risk of stating the obvious, I think that the poem derives its
considerable force from its refusal to let us decide on an answer to
Jennifer Michael's question.  I think it is important to remember that the
poem is told to us from the point of view of a very young chimney sweep.
The inextricably complicates the question of irony.  If we opt for irony,
are we then saying that Blake is criticizing the young sweep for his
naivete--even if that naivete offers him the only escape (trivial and
deceptive though it may be)?  What insight does it take to suggest that
young children are naive?  Like the innocent version of "Holy Thursday,"
one of the astonishing things about this poem is its suggestion of the
power of oppressed innocents--while the children in "HT" seems more
substantial (rivers and thunders etc), I find something powerfully
compelling in Tom's vision of play.  And, as the embedded speaker of the
experience version of the poem reminds us, the fact that children can find
play and power in the midst of oppression in no way relieves us of the
burden of responsibility.

For my part, I think that our experienced experience of the chimney
sweeper's innocence is the non-answer to the question: without collapsing
into either the naive innocence of assuming that duty protects us from
harm--or the cynicism of patting ourselves on the back for recognizing that
Tom's vision is really part of his own oppression, the poem disturbs (in a
Brechtian way?) us by recognizing the injustice without offering us the
relief of resolution.

Rob Anderson
Oakland University
And thanks, Jennifer, for offering some relief from the deluge of sludge.

At 01:40 PM 8/30/1998 -0500, you wrote:
>Well, I'm thoroughly embarrassed to have misread Paul's allusion to "the
>opiate of the masses."  I suppose I could blame it on the freshman who had
>just told me the last book he'd read was Huxley's _Doors of Perception_.
>I'll have to come back to Paul's real question, which I take to be, "What
>is the place of spirituality in a Marxist reading of Blake, or, what is the
>place of religion in Blake's social vision?"
>While I'm thinking, here's a hot potato to throw into the discussion
>(rather less threatening than a grenade):  "The Chimney Sweeper" of
>Innocence.  Is Blake's view of the Angel entirely ironic, as he gives Tom
>the dangerous "opiate," the promise of heaven, that keeps him in bondage?
>Or does Tom's dream offer the only liberation possible in his situation?
>Until later,
>Jennifer Michael


Date:          Tue, 1 Sep 1998 09:20:37 CST
From: "Ed Friedlander, M.D." 
Subject:       Blake and "disease"
Message-Id: <280426E1564@ALUM.UHS.EDU>

> Perhaps it is because so many of us deny the supernatural, that we mistake
> Blake's congruency with it for madness...
> clint carpenter II

Of course.  As Karl Jaspers pointed out, when the phenomena that
Blake reported begin occurring, "we know only that a new world has
been opened."

I appreciate this posting very much -- since it's edifying, and of
course away from the usual subject matter of science.  I have never
seen what I could credibly believ is the spirit of a departed person
(Blake only saw one, if I remember), and in comparing notes with
other middle-aged people, I find I'm rather the exception.

Although I think that Blake's waking vision of Edward III has more in
common with my own ordinary dreams than the take-away visions of the
seriously sick, it's given us something far more beautiful and
enriching than anything I've produced.

If anyone else doubts whether I'm a reasonable person, let me try to
explain once again.  A Becker's nevus is a large patch of dark, ultra-
hairy skin on a man's shoulder, the result of exquisite sensitivity
to testosterone.  Every pathology book has a description of such.
Some men with a Becker's nevus hate it.  Some men with a Becker's
nevus love it.  Under my best working definition of disease, the
Becker's nevus is a disease and should be treated in the man who
finds it makes him uncomfortable, and should be ignored (just
watched, and problems are rare) and even enjoyed in the man who likes
it.  ("Touch it!  That's where a bear licked me!")  Only the Spectre
of Urizen ("One Law for the Lion and the Ox") would disagree.

Whatever the similarities and differences between Blake's visions and
those of classic psychiatric descriptions, no reasonable person would
characterize him as "sick" or "diseased".   Nor have I done so -- in
fact, I emphasized this in my paper.  The fact that I've generated so
much anger suggests to me that even among bright people like the
"Blake" list, the undeserved stigma persists.

> P Van Schaik wrote:
> > At the risk of seeming mad myself, I have to say that it is not only when
> > one is about to die that one can see (or hear) from dead relatives. They
> > sometimes come to tell one that they have just died, as was the case
> > with my grandmother whose voice I heard very clearly one morning (in
> > my own head) as I was bathing.  I was surprised into replying with a
> > question: "Are  you feeling better?" (as she was in hospital after a stroke
> > and her voice sounded very clear).  She replied: "No, I'm dead!" and
> > minutes later, at work, I heard the news that she was.
> > Now, if this is possible, then Blake could have heard from the spirit world
> > - or mistaken his subconscious promptings for such -- while walking in
> > the fields.
> > Ed. re being pushed into one of three choices, I was replying to Tom
> > Devine's posting.
> > Pam

Thanks for your courage in sharing this story.  I have heard many,
many such in my doctoring career -- and y'know something?  almost all
bring accurate information.

* * *

Ed's Pathology Notes
Obviously, I cannot be your doctor, cannot diagnose or treat over the
internet, and can speak only for myself.  However, I can help you
find information, resources, articles, and experts... all as a free
public service.  Let me know how I can help you and your friends.

              -- Ed Friedlander, M.D. "the Pathology Guy"


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 11:19:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Nelson Hilton 
Subject: Finn Coren - The Blake Project
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Mention has already been made of Finn Coren's very impressive and
listenable "Blake Project"--_Spring_ and _Spring: The Appendix_--these are
now available for purchase on the net from Boxman ( 
(search "Coren Finn") 

   Nelson Hilton -=- English -=- University of Georgia -=- Athens
        Was ist Los? "Net of Urizen" or "Jerusalem the Web"?


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 18:44:10 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Henriette Stavis 
Subject: Lafcadio Hearn
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Dear Ralph,

Since you are such a great collector of Blake bibliographies, I thought 
you might be interested in:

	Hearn, Lafcadio. INTERPRETATIONS OF LITERATURE. (Port Washington, NY: 
	Kennikat Press, 1915), vols. I + II.

There is a chapter (vol I, pp. 51-71) named 'Blake - The First English 

In my opinion this Blake chapter is most interesting is seen as a 
slightly judgemental and condescending interpretation that clearly 
demonstrates its pre-Frye date.

There is, however, some interesting bits about mysticism - but again - 
they are a little simplistic.



Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 11:54:34 -0400
From: (Bert Stern)
Subject: Re: Blake and "madness"
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

        Re the recent hullabaloo on Blake's madness and the madness of
various others, I think there's some healthy perspective to be found in two
very different books:  Frances Yates's "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic
Tradition" and Owen Barfield's "Saving the Appearances."

        Yates's book chronicles that key moment in our history when science
and magic were still entangled, and she lays bare the two paths that at
that moment separated out.  The one was the path of "operation,"  which the
Greeks "considered "as base and mechanical, a degeneration from the only
occupation worthy of the dignity of man, pure, rational, and philosophical
speculation."  That attitude was carried into the middle ages, until,
because of the work of  Renaissance Magi, it became "dignified and
important for man to operate."

        Modern science in its infancy, was still clothed in what Yates
describes as "a Hermetic atmosphere."  Its operation was to tap into and
operate with the"the magical animation throughout nature."  Only with
Newton, when"the laws of inertia and gravity substituted for the psychic
life of nature as the principle of movement," was  Bruno's animate universe
drained into the mechanical one that Blake saw as a recent enclosure and,
at the same time, saw as dark destiny modern human were chained by.

        Today we tend to look at Blake from a perspective in which the
mechanical vision has ossified to even greater a degree than he
experienced.  In Yates' terms, Blake was still part of the earlier phase of
the scientific revoltuion, which consisted of "an animistic universe
operated by magic. . . ."  It goes without saying that from this
perspective the world felts very different than it does to us in the second
phase, "of a mathematical universe operated by mechanics."

        I won't try to bring Barfield to bear here, since I don't have
access to my books.  I will only say that he too lets us understand the
poignancy of Blake's moment in terms of the noetic shifts that made it

        Somebody once asked Thomas Huxley why "operative" science had
trimphed over its alternative and Huxley answered, "Because it works."
Strikes me that today, when we have reason to understand that, well, it
works and it doesn't work, and that our sustained operations on nature are
beginning to show some festering wounds, that we ought also to pay
attention to the noetic hsitory that brought us to the point.  Blake is
helpful in this.  So are Yates and Barfield.

Bert Stern


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 14:45:59 -0500
From: "J. Michael" 
Subject: Re: / criticisms. - Angels
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>"all of them lock'd up in the coffins of black" (l. 12)
>And the Angel:
>"set them all free" (l. 14)
>But at line 21
>And so Tom awoke and WE rose in the dark.....
>What is this presence?
>Is a boy, is Tom?

It's pretty clear to me from the first stanza that it's an older sweep (he
tells us his brief life story) who helps Tom learn the ropes and comforts
him when his head is shaved.  But I've never noticed that he's not included
in Tom's dream, only in Tom's "reality."

Jennifer Michael


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 12:30:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ralph Dumain 
Message-Id: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

I've been in the throes of intellectual ecstasy ever since I started reading
last. This may be an even more devastating blow against the
pseudo-profundities of Heil Hitler Heidegger than Adorno's treatment.
Anyway, it set off a set of intellectual chain reactions which brought in
several threads from this list and others as well as sent me scurrying into
my stacks for some references from other disreputable characters such as
Jameson and Althusser.  I promise to get back to Blake forthwith, but please
indulge me this quotation from Fred Jameson:

"... a dialectical critique of the categories of semiotic and narrative
method must historicize these categories by relating what are purely
methodological issues and dilemmas to the whole current philosophical
critique of the subject, as it emerges from Lacan, Freud, and Nietzsche, and
is developed in poststructuralism.  These philosophical texts, with their
attacks on humanism (Althusser), their celebration of the "end of Man"
(Foucault), their ideals of _dissemination_ or _derive'_ (Derrida, Lyotard),
their valorization of schizophrenic writing and schizophrenic experience
(Deleuze), may in the present context be taken as symptoms of or testimony
to a modification of the experience of the subject in consumer or late
monopoly capitalism: an experience which is evidently able to accommodate a
far greater sense of psychic dispersal, fragmentation, drops in 'niveau',
fantasy and projective dimensions, hallucinogenic sensations, and temporal
discontinuities than the Victorians, say, were willing to acknowledge.  From
a Marxist point of view, this experience of the decentering of the subject
and the theories, essentially psychoanalytic, which have been devised to map
it are to be seen as the signs of the dissolution of an essentially
bourgeois ideology of the subject and of psychic unity or identity (what
used to be called bourgeois 'individualism'); but we may admit the
descriptive value of the poststructuralist critique of the 'subject' without
endorsing the schizophrenic ideal it has tended to project.  For Marxism,
indeed, only the emergence of a post-individualistic social world, only the
reinvention of the collective and the associative, can concretely achieve
the 'decentering' of the individual subject called for by such diagnoses;
only a new and original form of collective social life can overcome the
isolation and monadic autonomy of the older bourgeois subjects in such a way
that individual consciousness can be lived--and not merely be theorized--as
an 'effect of structure' (Lacan)."

SOCIALLY SYMBOLIC ACT.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981; p. 124-5.

The meaning of this last allusion to Lacan eludes me.  For the rest, I'd say
it is a most brilliant exposition of Jameson's mastery of equivocation.
Notice he says that the disillusion of the subject is an illusory goal
within and may even be a product of late capitalism, but the emancipatory
value of same can only be realized within a socialist society.  He does not
question the value of the dissolution of the subject and appears to endorse
it.  Thus he can criticize the symptomatology of the postmodern condition
while endorsing its project at the same time. 

It's not within the scope of this list to discuss at length whether Marx
would endorse such a view of the subject under communism; I would only
caution against a presumption of certain commonly-accepted myths about Marx
in relation to collectivism and individualism which can be readily refuted
by textual examination.  

We could, however, discuss this passage in connection with Blake.  It seems,
the cosmos of redemption, that Blake allows for both preservation of the
individual subject and its interpenetration with other subjects (contraction
and expansion of the infinite senses).  The preservation of individuality
(minute particulars) is just as precious to Blake (wary of general bloated
forms) as communion.  In this I believe Marx agrees 100%.

But let's leave this scenario of the post-apocalyptic world and return to
our own.  I can't imagine anything more pernicious than the dissolution of
the subject promoted by these vile Frenchmen and their American henchmen.
As I stated in a previous post, it's the bourgeois intellectual's
self-abasement in the face of power, a decadent indulgence of pampered

Before I return to the concept of innocence, let me put out something else
to think about concerning Blake: to what extent does Blake expect us to
apply his vision of forgiveness etc. etc. in the world here and now?  When
Blake writes I am in you, you are in me, mutual in love divine, etc. etc.,
is he articulating his vision of the world he wants his audience to accept
or is he suggesting that he, you, me are actually in a position to act as if
this were true right now?  If the latter, then maybe he really was a schizo.
But I think he was a hard-headed realist.  He lived in a world even more
brutal and treacherous than mine, a world where people could not be trusted,
a world in which they were devoid of the consciousness of what they were all
about and why.  Such a world requires an iron will to navigate through it,
the wiry and bounding line of rectitude rather than vaporous dissolution,
the implacable determination not to be swayed one millimeter by the
foolishness and unconsciousness of the people around you.  Blake didn't feel
mutual in love divine with his fellows any more than I do.  For him it was
the way of not getting locked up in the world of finitude, bound and
restrained by the inevitable limitations of material living, but to open an
avenue to the future.

OK, now back to innocence as the guiding thread through the world of
experience. This view of Blake has eluded the intellectuals because it is so
simple and elementary, overlooked in the tangled webs of complexity as the
most elementary principles always are, so against the world of
footnote-whoring as a substitute for being somebody and standing for
something on one's own two feet.  This is the element lacking in all of the
people Jameson cites and in him too, which is why so much of his writing is
far less lucid than the passage I quoted, full of name-dropping and
theory-gorging like Da Bears' fans in a Saturday Nite Live skit.

Finally, to the discussion of the chimney sweep.  Matthew Bodie had me so
incensed my ears did the teapot thing, but then Jennifer Michael set things
right, so I turned off the burner.  One thing I have trouble with when it
comes to critics and the Songs of Innocence: though the consciousnesses
presented in the scenarios of innocence may be limited, I have a hard time
accepting that Blake's corresponding poems of Experience are intended only
to negate Innocence, and that Innocence poems are automatically to be read
as ironic or objects of cynicism.  In Experience, The Chimney Sweeper says:
"Because I am happy and dance & sing, They think they have done me no injury
..."  This corrects the usual pious bilge that would reconcile the oppressed
to their suffering.  Underneath all that soot that chimney sweep could have
been black for real, because that little statement sums up 400 years of
American history.  O, I'm mot going to lay down and die, I'm going to dance
and sing and get happy as best I can, but don't you use that as an excuse to
keep things the way they are, all that dancing and singing is _my_
prerogative.  The Songs of Innocence are a manifestation of cultural
resistance: inspiration to get people through the hard times.  You've got to
have something to elevate your mind above your circumstances or your
consciousness will be reduced to the sum total of your circumstances, and
then you'll forget your humanity.  Innocence is not a Leo Buscaglia jerking
off in your face, Innocence is resistance.  But is must be organized, or it
is not adequate to the task.  The irony comes from a recognition of the
limitations of the naive characters.  The overall narrator knows more;
sometimes he tells, sometimes he doesn't.  Little Lamb who made thee, dost
thou know who made thee?  Little Lamb, I'll tell thee; little lamb, _I'll_
tell thee.


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 14:49:47 -0500
From: "J. Michael" 
Subject: Re: the triad of vision
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

>Perhaps this is off-topic, but I think this account neglects the violence
>and loss of the poem's account of the creativity: "pluck'd--not took--a
>hollow reed" and "stained the water clear" as well as the fact that the
>child "vanish'd" as soon as--or even before--the piper begins writing it down.
>Rob Anderson

Why off-topic?  Our topic is Blake, or should be.  I don't read the child's
vanishing in such a sinister way, although many do.  To me, the child
vanishes because he's served his purpose, but he's replaced by "every
child" as the piper's audience.  The poem describes the shift from wordless
music, to song, to written verse, or the shift from private performance to
publication.  Given the facts of Blake's publications, of course, it's
highly ironic to think that *every* child would have access to his songs,
but that doesn't in itself make the act of writing one of loss.  The poem
still ends with joy, or at least the promise of joy.

Jennifer Michael


Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 20:46:42 +0100
From: (Tim Linnell)
Subject: Re: Blake and "madness" -Reply
Message-Id: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

>It would seem to me that many artists allow their sub-consciences as full
>rein as they can achieve without being  mad.  I get really nervous when
>someone presents only 3 choices and then says choose one of these
>categories  as one of them must be the only  snug fit  for a man such as
>Blake, or any one.  Too little is known by scientists as yet about the brain
>to trust such categories.  For example, many people, in many countries
>and ages have attested to near-death experiences in which they see
>`dead'  friends and relatives as welcoming them to a colourful
>other-world, and many have been regressed into past lives.  Because
>science, as yet, can't fit these things into categories, they pooh-pooh
>such experiences.  

Yes it can, and no it doesn't. Near death experiences have indeed been
explained by *real* scientists in relation to normal chemical processes in
the brain as it shuts down on death - similar to effects pilots experience
when pulling high G forces in fact.

I can see no more than 3 explanations for Blake's visionary works: 1) they
were conscious productions; 2) they were divinely inspired; or 3) they were
induced by an altered mental state. Unless you can tell me what other
options exist, I will stick to my list.

Frankly the negative connatation you have of 'mad' is your own, not mine. I
doubt if anyone on this list has a higher regard for Blake the man or his
work than me, and I will not diminish his importance by claiming him as a
simple channel for the Almighty or of a shared cultural memory as you seem
to suggest. I am simply interested in learning the truth about the way in
which his extraordinary imagination made its way from his subconscious to
the page.

Incidentally, anyone who has ever altered their mental state by means of
hallucinogenic drugs will explain the the world is sleeping, and that he has
at last awoken. It is a astoundingly common experience.



Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 15:08:48 -0500
From: "J. Michael" 
Subject: Re: Chimney Sweeper
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Rob, thanks for your comments, which are far more lucid than my own hasty
remarks on this subject.  Your conclusion is really what I was thinking of
when I asked the question: the power of innocence that transcends but does
not negate its exploitation.

Jennifer Michael


Date: Tue,  1 Sep 98 14:18:38 -0700
From: Seth T. Ross 
Subject: Re: Blake and "madness"
Message-Id: <>
Content-Type: text/plain

Ed Friedlander, M.D. wrote:
> > Try this in court, Tom, and you'll be as sorry as the
> > last attorney that I ate alive while defending an innocent, poor man.

Ralph Dumain  replied:
> I would recommend to the list moderator that anyone making such
> threats be summarily removed from this list.

As you well know, Ralph, I don't like seeing public threats. Since we're not  
in a legal forum, I think most readers would not interpret Dr. Friedlander's  
remarks as "threats". In fact, his comment seems completely rhetorical. But  
you already knew that, didn't you?

As far as I can tell, Tom Dillingham launched this little flamefest by  
accusing Dr. Friedlander of being deceptive, vain, and irresponsible. Those  
are fighting words here and elsewhere in cyberspace. I'm not too concerned  
about Tom's feelings in this matter -- judging from his tenacious posts, I bet  
he can take it.

Without commenting on the substance of the running flame motifs, I note that  
several individuals on the Blake List have degenerated into "lock on target"  
and attack mode. I'd like to remind everyone that all list traffic is archived  
-- anything said here could come back to haunt you. That is _not_ a threat --  
just a statement of how the public Internet works.

  A\  S. Ross, Publisher               "Create like a god,
 A A\ Books               command like a king
A   A\   +1 415-752-7666             & work like a slave."
                                            --Guy Kawasaki

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End of blake-d Digest V1998 Issue #58