University of Virginia Library

Plate 37[33] (Illustration V a)

And One stood forth from the Divine Family & said [1]
. . . .
So Los spoke: But when he saw <pale> [mended to] blue death
in Albions feet, [10]
. . . .

The Census describes the "last four words of the first line" of this plate as "incised instead of stereotyped"[20] but fails to note that the first six words of the line were also incised or engraved, though in relief instead of intaglio. In short the whole first line was added to the plate after etching. Wicksteed (p. 166) builds a precarious structure of speculation upon the deduction that "Blake made at least one attempt to obliterate his first line . . . and another attempt to restore it" (Wicksteed's emphasis). The attempt to obliterate, I suppose, is the fact that the line prints badly; the attempt to restore, the fact that in the Mellon copy the whole line is retouched (being especially pale in light brown ink). What Blake really seems to have attempted (with rough success) was to cut the first six words in relief, a process that required applying the letters in reverse on the smooth copper at the base of the illustration and then cutting around their outlines and hatching the background. With the seventh word Blake reverted to the traditional copperplate engraver's hand (incised in reverse line) with evident ease, though at a faulty angle.[21] One might conjecture that Blake made this switch with the intention of giving a sort of italic distinction to the concluding words ("Divine Family & said"), but the technical explanation — that the first process was too laborious — should suffice. There are no grounds at all for Wicksteed's supposition that Blake had "some perplexity in his mind" about what he wanted to write.

The mending of "pale" to "blue" in line 10 was perhaps a continuation of the impulse that produced the six raised words in line 1. But here instead of beginning with a smooth raised surface, Blake had only the raised surfaces


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of the word "pale" to work with, plus whatever he could build up on the plate beside them. He could leave the final e unchanged, but to mend "p" to "b" and "al" to "lu" he had to cut away the descending stroke of the p and the ascending stroke of the l (which he managed incompletely, leaving visible crumbs) and then somehow to build up the metal for the ascenders of "b" and "l" (as he did with visible gaps). The remaining segments of the old letters could be made into the new by judicious excisions. The result demonstrates again (compare Plate 29) how limited the possibilities were for changing etched lettering. Simpler to make lacunae, to fill with tendrils.

(Nevertheless it must not be supposed that Blake had never learned how to delete and re-engrave or re-etch a small area or large by punching the copper from behind and burnishing the raised area for a fresh start. See the clusters of punch marks that scar the backs of the Gough plates, now in the Bodleian, which were made during Blake's apprentice days in James Basire's shop, some of them by Blake himself. The presumption must be that Blake was using the backs as well as the fronts of his plates and that what was already etched on the back of Plate 37 was not something slated for cancellation. See appendix on Sizes of Plates.)

A proof of this plate in a state before any tampering with the word "pale" is in Sir Geoffrey Keynes's collection and may be seen in collotype reproduction in the Census (facing p. 106). The compilers are wrong to describe the British Museum copy as "in the earlier state" (p. 113) if this means that the page was printed from the plate before the mending. The reading of this copy is "pale" rather than "blue", but it was effected by a retouching, in somewhat darker ink, of a printing from the mended plate.[22] All four copies of Jerusalem, in short, derive from the same state of the plate, with its imperfect mending of "pale" to "blue", but in the British Museum copy Blake restored the original word—a wavering not repeated in the other copies. (The Rinder facsimile shows "blue" with no trace of "pale", but the evidence of the posthumous copies proves this effect to have been the result of inking—or of the making of the facsimile. The state of the unretouched plate is clearly exhibited in the Mellon copy and in its facsimile.)

Both this revision and the addition of line 1 suggest an early plate being adapted to changed context. There is no catchword on the preceding plate; there is a catchword on this plate (37) fitting the top of Plate 38 — and it may be noted that Plate 38 was once numbered "6". The textual


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reason for the change from "pale" to "blue" was probably Druidic: further on (J 65:4-5) Albion is "staind . . . with poisonous blue . . . To die a death of Six thousand years . . . ."[23]