The first of my wheelhouse recitations is the last part of Shelly’s long poem inspired by the death of John Keats.
Next week we will visit W B Yeats. Stay tuned.
Number 25 of the season–whom I shall name William–was born around 0400 hours this morning. Marty, rising early for work, kindly kayaked around them in order to avoid disturbing the vital, bonding ritual between mom and newborn pup. Good on ya, mate.
The drama on the logboom is always entertaining. A yearling deposed William from the choice haulout spot for the latest pups, while Will’s mom growled and waved her flipper in righteous indignation at the clueless interloper. Harumph.
I named the latest two pups after William Blake and his brother, who appeared to the poet long after Robert’s passing; to guide him in the alchemical process of gravure. This relates to my last post about negative capability. Robert’s physical absence gave way to spiritual presence, which guided Blake into the mysteries of relief etching. This technique–which Blake was the first to use–requires a disolution of the copper plate in acidic hellfire in order to exalt the spiritual form as pure light.
Kathleen Raine writes of how the ancient Persephone myth appears in Blake’s poetry to symbolize the soul’s descent into the the material world. The Neo Platonists–whose philosophy Raine says informed Blake’s work–saw birth as death or banishment of the most vital and ineffable part of us.
O life of this our Spring! Why fades the lotus of the water? Why fade these children of the Spring, born but to smile and fall? Ah! Thel is like a watery bow, and like a parting cloud, like a reflection in the glass; like shadows in the water.
William Blake stressed the “particulars,” how the details of daily life are continuous with cosmic totality. In Blake’s expansive vision the two perspectives interpenetrate and this all-inclusive vision animates and unifies his art in way that is unique in the history of art. In Jerusalem, the local village scene merges with vast space and opens on the mythic city:
Pancrass & Kentish-town repose
Among her golden pillars high,
Among her golden arches which
Shine upon the starry sky.
So my Black Friday visit to a Port Angeles fabric store acquires new significance. This particular Clallam anchorage is where the angels weave this narrative into the fabric of myth. Or maybe it was just a place where I could score a good deal on the canvas I need for my February art show.
I am imagining some large canvases painted in the muted, earthen tones of the gray, English landscape overlaid with an architecture of arches and pillars of insubstantial, golden light.
At the same time I continue the memory practice, learning Jerusalem “by heart” and using the mnemonic imagery of the memory stations as a starting point. These stations continue to evolve as I memorize the text and work the paintings. In this way I hope to in infuse the paintings with some of Blake’s generous, all-encompassing spirit.
This process may sound cumbersome, but it works well in maintaining a broad perspective and helps avoid a myopic fixation on details. This fixation is far from the non-dualistic attention to particulars Blake writes of. I hope my art may be as expansive and generous as his.
If you look closely at the background, some ethereal light forms emerge; vague figures who begin to emerge from beyond a misty veil. Or maybe the turpentine was just going to my head.
Attention! Attention! Tsunami alert! Tsunami alert!
The speakers on the church walls crackled over the dismal howl of sirens.
Dust of crumbled masonry rose from the collapsed reliquary amid screams and prayers for deliverance. I ran into the streets and made for Old Hand. I leaped onto the dock as the engine roared to life above the frenzied tumult of the throng. McWhirr had just cast off the dock lines when a repulsive splog pirate wielding a cutlass grabbed my monkey jacket and said in a malodorous, rasping tone: “Are you sure you want to close your Babylon account?”
A blast from the ship’s deck sent him sprawling into the rank harbor. McWhirr threw aside his smoking musket and hauled me over the rail before jamming the ship full throttle and steaming for deep water. A glazzy spam-bot, with wires dangling from her stove-in side, gushed at McWhirr as we bore away from the pier-head: “Look! It’s Gregory Peck! I saw you on MeTube. Can I have your autograph?”
We headed for open sea just as a group of cyber-ruffians thundered onto the wharf with a volley of deprecatory oaths and small arms fire.
Once clear of musket range, I lifted my head above the rail to inhale the sea air. It lay calm and of a such a limpid sheen that I fell into tranquil revery. It felt as if all the fetid smog of Babylon were dispelled by the sweet Levantine zephyrs that wafted over the sun-dappled main like Mother Gaia’s beneficent caress. I silently offered a prayer for the gentle hand that had rocked the Adamic cradle of mankind. It was as if I quaffed from the verdant spring of the mystic Green One of Araby-that master of masterless souls who wander the globe’s Byzantine seaways seeking the vivifying elixir of immorality.
“Look sharp, Mister Spencer.”
McWhirr’s cautionary words roused me to behold the distant horizon demarcated by an edge of deep ultramarine blue that advanced steadily upon our gallant ship.
“We’re in for some fun and games now.”