David Erdman has caused or helped most of the happy events in

my career.  A brief anecdote will reveal his easy graciousness. 

When I arrived at Stony Brook in 1977, my first stop was to visit

Erdman, for whose inspiration and instruction I had signed up.  A

few days into the semester, I was walking in the hall past a

classroom in which he was teaching.  At the end of the hall stood

a graduate student named David.  Not even thinking about Dr.

Erdman's first name, I called out, "Hi, David."  The next time I

walked past that class, David Erdman called out cheerily, "Hi,

Mark."  I blushed when I realized what was happening: he thought

that I had interrupted him in the middle of class to yell out his

first name.  I then blushed again in honor of David's insult-

proof egalitarianism.  Multiply that graciousness by thousands of

his students and colleagues, add his massive scholarship, and you

see a man who deserves even more honors than he has already


    During the summer of 1991 I studied with Leo Damrosch in his

NEH seminar devoted to Rousseau and Blake.  His Symbol and Truth

in Blake's Myth had already prodded me more than any other book

to try to formulate my own ideas.  During the seminar, he handled

my disagreements with good humor.  His self-described eclecticism

and marginality helped make him a perceptive interpreter of Blake

(and of Rousseau in that seminar).  This book is in large measure

an attempt to answer not only Damrosch's book and its strong

philosophical basis, not only Damrosch's common-sense refusal to

grant Blake's mystical vision, but also his persuasive voice,

skeptical eyes, and bemused laugh.

    During the summer of 1985 I studied with Michael Cooke in his

NEH seminar, "English Romanticism: The Problem of Wholeness." 

His Acts of Inclusion had already inspired me with its

similarities to my own ideas.  During that seminar, I completed

an essay, "Striving with Blake's Systems," which appeared in

Blake and his Bibles, edited by David Erdman, published by Locust

Hill Press.  That essay was really the seed of this book and

could easily be a chapter of it.  Michael was killed in a car

accident on September 14, 1990.  Although I do not converse with

him daily, as William did with Robert, I often hear his

encouraging voice, see his beaming smile, and feel his religious


    I could dedicate this book to any one of those three, but I

do dedicate it to Sonja Lallemand, with whom I have been joined

in a passionate coincidentia oppositorum for over a decade.  My

daughters, Priscilla Barbara Smith--who now knows more about

Buddhism than I ever will--and Catherine Blake Smith--who loves

to recite the Introduction to Songs of Innocence--make every day


    Other people have helped me in large ways and small, from

substantial advice to chance remarks that gave me renewed

strength to accomplish this task: Pat Skarda and the other

members of NEH summer seminars in 1985 and 1991, Ron Lunsford,

Katherine Lederer, Don Holliday, Jim Jones, Tita Baumlin, Dean

Hinnen, Bill Burling, Anthony Vital, Ruth Goehring, Sharon

Dingman, Judy Reynolds, Thomas Maresca (who first introduced me

to Nicholas of Cusa as a way of reading Pope), Thomas J. J.

Altizer, Lee Miller, Betty T. Bennett, David Sheehan, Jerome

Christensen, George Gilpin, Pam Senter, Maria Cecilia Fortou,

Michael Tolley, Eric Link, Phill Pulsiano, Paula Uruburu, Lyn

Yonack, Duane Bedell, Ellen Gardiner, Janice Queen, Karen Otis,

Duane Coltharp and many other students in my classes, and the

librarians at Harvard, Stanford, and Southwest Missouri State


    Tom Bechtle, publisher at Locust Hill Press, has shown me the

most extraordinary patience.  Let his greatest reward be the

knowledge that my patience toward others has increased by his


    Jim Baumlin, not for the first time, performed beyond the

call of friendship.

    The two summers that I spent studying in NEH seminars

stimulated my intellect more than any other experiences in my

life.  I thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for

their wise and generous support of their summer seminars for

college teachers.

    The final two chapters of this book have been re-worked from

my dissertation, "William Blake's Transfiguration of the Bible in

Jerusalem."  The chapter on Pope has been re-worked from an essay

published in the journal of the Midwestern Modern Language

Association; the chapter on Shelley has been re-worked from an

essay published in the journal of the Missouri Philological

Association; the chapter on Mary Shelley has been re-worked from

an essay published in the journal of the Arkansas Philological