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Jersualem by William Blake

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Jersualem by William Blake

Of the true masterpieces in the English language, one of the most metaphysically challenging and eternally relevant is William Blake's Jerusalem. It took Blake four thousand lines etched onto one hundred plates to put his reinterpretation of the prophetic books of the Bible into an English context. The poem shows not only Blake's new understanding of the Old Testament gained from his recent learning of the Hebrew language, but his freedom from the Miltonic tradition. In the preface to Jerusalem Blake writes that it is a, "more consolidated & extended Work,(Keynes,620)" than he has tried before. The primary reason for his ability to begin such an undertaking when he did in 1804, is from the liberating release he gained from the completion of Milton. Within the context of poetical influence, a poet must first choose to misread and distort his mentor's poems, else he cannot function ; a broad and deep understanding of Shakespeare would paralyze one and fix them before a single word is penned. Such was the case with Milton and Blake. The new wholly free Blake seen in Jerusalem was one who had stared down the hallway of tradition into the eyes of both Shakespeare and Milton, and rather than crumble as he expected, was unshackled. To see behind Blake's message for Albion , that is such a major part of Jerusalem, one must keep in account the notion that the poem is coming from a man in the direct line of tradition as Milton and yet totally free at the same time. This parallels Jerusalem, which is both an emanation of Albion and the bride of the Lamb at the same time; corrupt and pure.

It is with this duality that Blake makes a major plea toward his beloved Albion in Jerusalem. His desire is for his E...

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... It is a belief in the supreme power of the Imagination, in the ability of every person, be they from Canaan, England, or Mexico to arrive in their own Jerusalem. Such is the hope that ends the final work in the Blake canon:

Human Forms identified, living, going forth, & returning wearied

Into the Planetary lives of Years, Months, Days & Hours; reposing,

And the Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality.(99:2)

It is the honoring of humanity, the same humanity, the same England that Blake pours contempt on throughout the poem. They have passed through the smaller sphere of Innocence and Experience, and move forward to the sphere of living then returning to Beulah. Blake himself went out from Eden, danced with Milton, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Cowper, and returned to Beulah, to England for rest and when he rose found himself in Immortality- in Jerusalem.
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