This letter, translated from the Spanish of the scholar Rubino del Sur, replies to a letter he had received telling of the holes Blake gouged in the plate of his Jerusalem when it was not given its due, and of other poets like Hopkins who burned or destroyed their work.
In fact only five copies of Blake's long poem were ever printed, and this privately in Blake's house by himself and his wife. Only one copy, filled with the most extreme illustrations, was ever truly finished and colored. No other text exists in only one finished state, but even that was marred by the passion of the artist. Reference made to the typography of the modern editor is taken by Paley at length to mean he must puzzle it out but resist the temptation to invent new signs.
I give you Borges and you return me Blake! May God preserve us in our sleeplessness!
Rubino del Sur
I wonder to contemplate what you say Señor, that you are "no scholar of the Lamb to pay for Van Gogh's ear or Shelley's heart." The list must be long of those so taught, whose manuscripts upon the ruined pyre are "wounds that never heal." You write for some future time of the heart gouges in the plate of Blake's Jerusalem. Will you this day have an ear for the heart? I was given an ear to listen as one being taught.
There was never a hole in that plate or print alone, this colored copy of Jerusalem. Why this one whose coppers met the gouge? As Woody Guthrie hammers out danger, warning and love, Blake gouged out "friendship," he gouged out "blessing," he gouged out "love" between himself and the reader, "entire passages that suggested intimacy" [Paley, 11]. These effects of this hammer can only be compared with the body of our Lord. Injured Pilate [Plate] Three separates the public sheep from the goat, "no longer [Dear] Reader is not to be asked to "[forgive] what you do not approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my talent" [Paley, 12].
Yeats says Blake shook artists from their ladders. I found a cello fallen from the upper story of Van Gogh's head. It lay broken, every follicle dead. Yet it was a symbol, with Hopkins' burned mansion, manuscripts burned in the grate behind Blake's house, of those gouges that belong to us, you and I who celebrate the suffering.
There in your basket Sir I worry the distinction of high art, the Lamb without spot, which fellowship the editor must, to understand the hand gouged text and invent new typographical signs [Jerusalem, Paley, 126]. Were you a hawk upon a cliff of subtle drops, positioned by little taps, the blow that pierces Blake would join, launch colon below period. A sea of tildas descend in fiery sparks, nimbuses with comma heads and question marks that spark a bed of periods at the grave of Yeats. That same source of talk was heard on Black Ridge above the shrubs where he slept a stretch, hard fighting men in rows, as if he died again, but long ago. Open the basket whose shroud flutters. Can we revive the bones? I have been up late my patron.
We prize the wounds and get beyond false art that shames Hopkins for burning poems or Blake to gouge his plate. Who survives the sudden night, suddenly expired stigma of escapes, trials, sufferings? The poet's gouge is not "a broken text", it is a line torn from the Achilles, swollen to cartilage flesh where art's smooth body grows thick. The gouges mark the path, the suffering of the age. Says Maxwell Edison, we are all Jesus Christ. We are all crucified.
We meet them by the Rock on the other side, those scholars who take the Abyss but understand not. No standing Señor. Surely your penchant to understand confounds, gives Blake relief, but centuries late. Why rave? Why speak? It is later yet. I wake to read. Night fills.
The scholars had the text's dark gloss, but nothing like the sense. They did not see eternity the other night, Jerusalem and the Giant Forms that save. Blake's gouge goes down where all the ladders start. Fundamentalist, come away! You expect to complete that line Jesus Only in Greek in the crescent moon, inscribed upon the page? Transfigure light of the Great Morning, where all beings pass in the common street transformed to the epitome of all beauty, or of all joy, or of all sorrow. Admit only those who enter. It shall come from the soul. It shall be love. I am your
Giambattista Marino Rubino del Sur
Notes (Ed.: keyed to bold-face phrases in the text above):
-Plate 3 of Jerusalem originally read: "after my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean, I again display my Giant forms to the Public. My former Giants & Fairies having received the highest reward possible: the love and friendship of those with whom to be connected, is to be blessed: I cannot doubt that this more consolidated and extended Work, will be as kindly received." Blake's reception may be judged from the fact that only eight Urizens, four Miltons , and one colored Jerusalem exist. His passion at rejection "so enraged him that he wanted to remove all traces of personal intimacy and spiritual communion with his readership (Paley, 11)."
-The story goes that after Shelley drowned and as his body was about to be cremated on a pyre his friends built on the beach, Trelawney leapt upon the logs and pulled out Shelley's heart.
-Hopkins burned most of his early manuscripts before entering the Jesuits.
-W. B. Yeats. Poems of Blake. Modern Library, 1925. Literally, "Blake leant out from a scaffolding where he sat at work and flung a Westminster student from a cornice" (xv).
-Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion, edited by Morton D. Paley (Blake Trust/Princeton, 1998) says, "commas and periods are often difficult to discriminate; I have examined all problematic cases under magnification and have decided on the basis of deviation from roundness: if there is any, the mark is a comma. What one senses ought to be exclamation points. . . often look more like colons, and sometimes two slightly elongated points set at an angle must be interpreted. Here I have taken the nearest possible approximation: if the mark looks more like a colon, it is one; if the two components are of unequal size and the upper one bigger, it is an exclamation point" (126).
-It is not Maxwell Edison, but Maxwell Anderson, who says, literally "everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified."