University of Virginia Library

His Probable Reasons

Blake's reasons for making those deletions in Jerusalem which can be recovered for discussion range from the obvious to the complex to the inscrutable. Changes of plan, aesthetic and moral considerations, changed thinking, increased secretiveness, the effects of depression irreversible whether or not temporary — all appear to have operated, singly and in combination, to produce the deletions and alterations noted below as well as numerous rearrangements and replacements of whole plates, about which the evidence is highly confusing in our present state of knowledge about such things as Blake's graphics.

An incalculably drastic change of plan is hinted at by the deleted phrase "In XXVIII Chapters" etched in the title page (Plate 2) of a work which in its extant form is geometrically arranged in a Fourfold scheme of four chapters.[7a] The deleted "End of the 1st Chap:" on Plate 14 does not tell us how long the chapters were to be, in any earlier scheme, because we cannot tell where this plate stood in any earlier sequence. Nor can we easily tell what to make of the date "1804" on the title page, undeleted, although it is well to recognize that the date is incised, not etched, and can have been added to the plate at any time (both in the sense that the plate may have been old or new when it was dated and in the sense that "1804" can have been added in that or, commemoratively, any subsequent year.)[8]


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Other deletions related to changes of plan occur on Plates 1, 29, 35 (perhaps), 37, 41, 91, and 94-95.

Aesthetic as well as schematic considerations may have influenced


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the decision to delete all text from Plate 1, to make it a silent and sombre frontispiece to the series continuing in 26, 51, 76, 100. That Blake may not have been dissatisfied with the text of Plate 1 in itself, however, seems indicated by the fact that he made a separate "proof" in color and outlined the letters carefully in dark ink. Moral and


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aesthetic considerations may have combined to cause the elaborate re-engraving required to uncouple the male and female figures on Plate 28 — though here too it may be significant that a print of the first state has survived. On Plate 37 the mending of "pale . . . feet" to "blue . . . feet" may be doctrinal as well as aesthetic. Rhetorical improvements were made on Plate 4, with deletion of the double exclamation mark, and on Plate 82, with the reduction of duplication in lines 47-48 and the removal of the "redning skeleton in howling woe" from line 69. The amplification of one plate to two near the end of the work (Plates 94 and 95) may be due simply to recalculation as the 100th plate approached — or it may have involved rejection of another plate, for reasons we cannot discover, though possibly from the overriding desire to increase the "illumination" on 94-95.

Changes of idea may have influenced the deletions on Plates 1 (perhaps), 4, 7, 35, 36, 47, 73, 77, 84. But the self-destructive deletions of Plate 3, withdrawing the affectionate terms addressed to the oncedear Reader, effacing and yet not quite thoroughly effacing the poet's confessions of faith and enthusiasm: these are of a different order. Blake had done something of this kind in a less irreversible way when he had added a stanza of harp-shattering despair to the Preludium of his America: at the bottom of a page, so that when his depression lifted he could cover the stanza and print the page free of gloom. The momentary effects of dismay upon the Preface of Jerusalem remain even in the most brightly colored copy, remained perhaps in his own will — for he could, after all, have made a new plate.