Chapter 6: Ways of Escape: Blake's "Mental Traveller"
William Blake's "The Mental Traveller" serves as a good
introduction to the coincidence of opposites in Blake because it
shows the absolute failure of opposites to interpenetrate. The
opposing male and female in the poem frustrate, dominate, and
torture each other at every opportunity. Moving contrapuntally
with the negations between fixed male and female principles, in a
more mobile opposition, youth and old age mutually torture and
attempt to destroy each other. The images of circles and of
opposing centrifugal and centripetal forces that were crucial to
Cusa, Pope, Coleridge, Percy Shelley, and Mary Shelley, here take
over completely. Circles generated by the insistent opposition
between male and female threaten to end existence by their
claustrophobic escalations of tension. Before Blake finds
solutions to the problems of opposites in his later poems, he
first paints them, in all their detail and agony, in "The Mental
The oppositions in "The Mental Traveller" create a poem that
well serves as a cautionary tale in one's methods of
interpretation. At one extreme, some interpretations emphasize
the horror of the cycle of male-female domination; at the other
extreme, some interpretations emphasize the eternal aspects of
the cycle of spirit and nature. I prefer the point of view of
Michael Cooke, who emphasizes the poem's curious doubleness:
An atmosphere of outrage at the entire scene pervades the
poem, but there is also an uncontrollable fascination that
the speaker freely imparts.1
All major forms of interpretation emphasize or imply the
inevitability of the cycle, while only a few critics suggest any
hope of escape. I maintain that the poem opens possibilities of
escape in almost every moment. An even more optimistic view of
the poem comes from Rachel Billigheimer:
Blake employs imagination in order to escape the wheel of
time. . . . In the historical-mythic account of "The Mental
Traveller" Blake symbolically describes how freedom is born
from suffering that is turned into triumph.2
I think that Billigheimer goes too far in reading this poem as
exhibiting the triumph of the imagination. But I do agree that
the excruciating cycles of this poem point toward the freedom of
the imagination that blossoms in later poems.
Quite clearly the characters in the poem, or perhaps more
exactly the principles of action in the poem, see opposites only
as mutually exclusive. All attempts at interpenetration of male
and female result in exclusion, torture, or destruction. Not
accepting any co-existence of opposites, not accepting any
mutually productive dynamic, not accepting any acts of inclusion,
the male and female can try only to exclude or destroy or
overpower or dominate. Imagination at any point might find
freedom from the cyclical trap; instead the trap grows deeper and
more horrible. When the poem ends--"And all is done as I have
told"--the anticipated cycle promises to be even more brutal than
the one in which we have just been spun.
Throughout the cycle, however, opportunities for escape
abound. Most commentators recognize the promise of liberation in
the birth at the beginning of the poem. It seems that the
torture of the babe by the old woman might be avoidable. Even
though reading the beginning of the poem in light of the end with
its promise of repetition tends to dampen such a hope, the entire
poem presents itself in a series of glimpsed, missed
opportunities. At every moment the perspective of the
is possible, as it is in Blake's
There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
This Moment & it multiply. & when it once is found
It renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly placed.
Putting this possibility in the context of Blake's entire oeuvre,
without specific reference to "The Mental Traveller," Thomas
Altizer suggests a most radical hope based on acceptance of
The movement from Fall to Apocalypse is a dialectical
movement through an '
participation in every turn of the wheel. . . . Apart from
the joy and horror of our fallen history, there could be
neither a real nor a dialectical movement culminating in the
Apocalypse. Therefore, every moment not only opens into
a fallen time and space. 3
Whether or not we accept such an extreme insight, clearly Blake
calls us in this poem to some such breaking of the normal limits
of perception. Altizer's emphasis on the inseparability of
fallen vision and Edenic vision, with its acceptance of the
horrors of the cycle, can help us to reassess our disapproval of
torture in the poem. Nevertheless, we must guard against a
complacency that can be caused by Altizer's death-of-God
theology. Simple acceptance of the horrors is not enough; it
must be combined with an equal and opposite desire for escape.
Blakean vision simultaneously accepts and rejects the everyday
world of fallen vision.
From the very beginning of Blake's illuminated works, his
tractates, he distinguishes between poetic and empirical modes of
vision. Probably the most useful general way to interpret "The
Mental Traveller" is to apply Blake's conclusion to the tractate
"There is No Natural Religion":
If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the
Philosophic & Experimental would be seen at the ratio of all
things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same
dull round over again. (E1)
Ordinary vision, single vision, everyday common sense, called
"Philosophic & Experimental" by Blake, can live only a numbing
cycle. That cycle is perfectly represented in "The Mental
Traveller," in which the characters and many interpreters can see
no way to escape. The poet/prophet Blake, through his narrator
who has travelled through these cycles, gives us the most
horrifying picture of the philosophic/experimental limitations on
existence. Mere empiricism, coupled with rationalism, contains
no spark with which to light the psychological and spiritual
darkness that envelopes the cycles of "The Mental Traveller."
Like Blake's character Urizen when at his worst, the
characters in "The Mental Traveller" fear any change brought on
by new life:
Urizen can understand recurrence well enough, but the
presence within time and space of life, of a power which
grows and alters its form, inspires in him a feeling of
Caught in unquestioned ideologies, caught in the traps of
accepting the natural world as a standard, such limited vision
can only accept the revenge that makes the world go round. But
each action, each state or condition in the poem, presents a
typical Blakean hope concealed within the apparent hopelessness.
Each crux in the poem can be interpreted as a hopeful possible
way of escape. True, each time they have the opportunity, the
characters choose not to see Eternity, because each time the male
or the female attains a potential for escape, the other negates
it. However, this cycle of despair, of failed hopes, contains
the germ of regeneration. This poem does not show such
regeneration, as do Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem, but it does
show the problem in stark opposites that never find coincidence.
It does define opposites that need interpenetration, but that
always seek it only perversely.
Blake's concept of States and Individuals also gives us a
useful general framework in which to place "The Mental
Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those
States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor
(Milton 32:22-23, E132)
The Spiritual States of the Soul are all Eternal
Distinguish between the man, & his present State.
(Jerusalem 52, E198)
So Men pass on: but States remain permanent for ever.
(J 73:45, E229)
Although the second and third passages may seem to contradict the
first because the former emphasize the changing nature of states,
and the latter emphasizes their permanence, both passages do
emphasize the dynamic nature of human identity. "Every harlot
was a virgin once." The problem in "The Mental Traveller" can be
defined as an insistence by the characters that everyone stay in
the same condition. The actions of the characters try to fix the
other or the self in a permanent condition. Ironically, as the
cycle proceeds, such fixity is impossible anyway; the obvious
lesson is never learned.
As the poem proceeds, the characters undergo dynamic changes
of condition, but they always try to hold on to the state in
which they find themselves, to forestall any further changes.
The turning cycle drives them outward with centrifugal force,
forcing change upon them; their selfishness of limited vision
counters with centripetal force, desperately and uselessly
grasping and clinging. At almost every turn they grasp, bind,
and otherwise try to fix the state of the other individual and
therefore of themselves. This grasping ironically produces an
effect not wished for: instead of freezing the cycle, such
grasping spins it faster.
The poem begins by re-casting the traditional word of human
universality--"Men"--into a word of sexual division--"Men &
Women." These bland, acceptable terms, beginning in line one
with hegemonical unity, bifurcating in line two into a cheery
"vive la difference," suddenly turn threatening and hostile as
the narrator intrudes "dreadful" and "cold" into our world of
traditional male dominance and sexual flirtation:
I traveld thro' a Land of Men
A Land of Men & Women too
And heard & saw such dreadful things
As cold Earth wanderers never knew.
After a first line which sounds like a routine travel memoir-
-"I traveld thro' a Land of Men"--the second line repeats half of
the first line and adds an important split: "A Land of Men &
Women too." In ordinary usage the first line about men would
include women. By emphasizing the two sexes Blake underlines a
drastic difference, an irreconcilable opposition that prepares us
for the horrors of sexual separation that the rest of the poem
catalogues. He may also be including a little joke like the one
that Hamlet tells at the end of his "What a piece of work is
man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though by your
smiling you seem to say so.5
The traditional obliteration of woman in the universal term "man"
not only denigrates women by excluding them, but it also
highlights the licentious flirtation that Hamlet and Blake imply,
the flirtation of the battle between the sexes that spirals into
sadism in "The Mental Traveller." Women are the playthings of
men in Hamlet's joke, the easy answer to a difficult question: if
life is getting you down, go get yourself a woman. Women are the
playthings of men in Blake's poem as well, but in this vicious
equal-opportunity cycle, men are also the playthings of women.
Without the difference in the sexes, the world could not go
round; without the mutual exploitation, the cycles of "The Mental
Traveller" could not continue in the same mutually destructive
fashion. Although Blake does underline the categories of male
and female in a peculiarly twentieth-century way, his point is
not equality of the sexes, but rather the mutual torture that the
two sexes inflict on each other if they continue the same old
dull round instead of using the imagination to escape or to re-
Throughout the poem the narrator's voice is flat, simply
narrative, almost deadpan. The only word that the narrator uses
to express his own feelings occurs in the third line: "dreadful."
Izak Bouwer and Paul McNally interpret this value judgment in a
"Men & Women" . . . refers to eternal archetypes, and it
follows that the poet visited the regions of Man's eternal
reality. . . . The "dreadful" things recounted by the
traveler are the events of this land of eternal reality,
which are awe-ful, or sublime.6
Although this open-minded generosity, in the spirit of Cooke's
"fascination" quoted above, may help us to read the poem, such an
assertion seems to deny the horror and even the detachment of the
narrator. Indeed, most interpreters of the poem see the word
"dreadful" as separating the narrator from the events that he
describes. However, if, as Gerald Enscoe suggests, the narrator
is someone who has already undergone the kinds of experiences
that he is about to describe (403), then the narrator might be
showing sympathy, not distance. Perhaps, with a vigorous
stretching of the imagination, a reader can see the word
"dreadful" as all three: positive, pejorative, and sympathetic.
The poem thus would set up a complex of attitudes that is not
simply either accepting or rejecting, but both.
The "cold Earth wanderers" of line 4 are those of us who fail
to view the world with prophetic vision and can not see the
horror of what men and women do to each other, and therefore live
trapped in these horrors, frozen in our psychological state.
"All are bound to the insistent simplicity of a role. . . . roles
exhaust the possibilities of relationship in 'The Mental
Traveller.'"7 The ignorance of which line 4 speaks may not mean
that we have not experienced these tortures but that we do not
really understand them. Surely every human being who has ever
tried to love has lived some of the horrors of this poem and thus
"knows" them; just as surely, few of us understand our actions
and feelings, and thus we "know" not what we do. By describing
the cruel vagaries of love so starkly Blake urges us, as does a
satirist, to front the process and thereby find a new way to view
the events, perhaps to escape from the horrible cycle by leaving
it as does the female babe in the middle of the poem or by
transforming the cycle as Blake does in later poems.
Just as the first stanza upsets ordinary categories of men
and women, so the second stanza upsets, and even reverses,
ordinary categories of sex and birth:
For there the Babe is born in joy
That was begotten in dire woe
Just as we Reap in joy the fruit
Which we in bitter tears did sow.
Thus, the first incident in the poem is a birth, which in Blake
is usually a hopeful sign. According to Martin Nurmi and many
other critics, the dreadful cycle that we are about to enter
could be broken here, but it is not; the opportunity is missed.8
The strange thing about this birth is that it reverses the
curse in which birth happens in pain. In the Bible Eve is cursed
by God for her transgression of eating the fruit of the forbidden
I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in
sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. (Gen 3:16)
Blake's simple reversal invites us to redefine our unthinking
acceptance of the agony of labor, just as the entire poem invites
us to reconsider our unthinking acceptance of the battle between
In addition to reversing the feeling usually assigned to
birth, the poem also reverses the traditional feeling attached to
sex, for the babe has been begotten in dire woe. Instead of the
expected pleasure in sex and pain in childbirth, the poem gives
us pain in sex and pleasure in childbirth. The curses of the Old
Testament Urizenic God are thus reversed at the beginning of the
poem, but almost every action throughout the poem tries to
reinstate them. By reversing traditionally assigned values and
feelings, Blake invites us into a potentially transformed world.
Each new beginning in the poem promises to reverse an old curse,
promises to begin to escape, but then succumbs to the same old
In this description of the birth of the babe, Blake alludes
to a Bible passage in which the Psalmist commemorates the escape
from Babylonian captivity:
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were
like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with
laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among
the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them. The
Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the
south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that
goeth forth . . . bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come
again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalms
126:1-6) [emphasis added]
This allusion implies that a chance for escape from any dreadful
condition is possible. Such hints recur throughout the poem, but
each such hope gets trampled.
Gerald Enscoe suggests that Blake means that sex has been
perverted by Puritanical inhibitions into a dire woe, and that
the joy of birth is really the female's relief at ridding herself
of her inner burden, which she can now repay for the grief it has
caused her.9 She has been imposed on; now she can impose in
turn. Such a reading perfectly catches the cycle of revenge that
is set in motion, but it does so at the cost of any genuine joy.
Any joy would have to be redefined as sadism. Martin Nurmi, on
the other extreme, wants joy to overcome sorrow. He tries to
allow both extremes, but can not:
the emphasis [can be] either on dire woe or on joy. I
believe joy to be proper: although the babe is begotten in
sorrow, he is born in joy.10
I think a combination of these two readings, with nether denying
the other, best opens up the Blakean dilemma, unsolved in this
poem but solved later in the coincidences of opposites in
Jerusalem. In "The Mental Traveller," sorrow and joy, stasis and
movement, female and male, see-saw back and forth in manic-
depressive, sado-masochistic ricochet. Each extreme, by trying
to deny the other, by trying to find solidity, as Urizen usually
tries to do in The Book of Urizen and the Four Zoas, actually
forces the cycle to spin faster and more cruelly. The joy and
the sorrow are both genuine, but the attempt to destroy either
one traps us more inextricably in the dreadful cycles.
As soon as the babe is born, the old woman tries to pin him
like a butterfly specimen:
And if the Babe is born a Boy
He's given to a Woman Old
Who nails him down upon a rock
Catches his shrieks in cups of gold.
When the boy babe is given to the old woman, the first
explicit torture of the poem begins. The act can be seen as
social; society as a whole allows the torture to happen by giving
the child over to the torturer. The passive verb implies a
hidden ideology, an action that has no clearly defined actor to
be blamed. Haven't we always done it this way? And if we have,
how can anyone imagine new possibilities?
The first woman in the poem takes the babe and nails him down
upon a rock, thereby trying to force him into rigid, fixed
patterns, to solidify him in his state. The imagery recalls
Christ, punished by man, and Prometheus, punished by Zeus. This
evocation of Prometheus provides interesting echoes into
Prometheus Unbound and Frankenstein, which has as its subtitle
"The Modern Prometheus," and Prometheus Unbound. They both set
up a cycle of punishment and revenge which seems inescapable. In
Frankenstein the cycle is not escaped, but in Prometheus Unbound,
the power of forgiveness, also the power of liberation in Blake's
Jerusalem, does break the cycle of revenge.
As in Blake's Orc cycle11 over and over again, as soon as the
spirit of revolution or new life springs up, the forces of
repression hasten to pin it down and rigidify it.
She binds iron thorns around his head
She pierces both his hands & feet
She cuts his heart out at his side
To make it feel both cold & heat.
The iron thorns and the binding of the hands and feet, both
reminiscent of the torture of Jesus, represent mental limitations
and limitations of physical activity. This kind of imagery,
emblematic of the disastrous mutual torture of Ulro, is prevalent
in Blake's prophecies. One example, with imagery similar to this
image in "The Mental Traveller," emphasizes the feeling of
. . . they cut asunder his inner garments: searching with
Their cruel fingers for his heart, & there they enter in pomp
Sacrifices abound in Blake's prophecies as examples of the depths
of human behavior. Northrop Frye persuasively links sacrifice to
the dominance of reason:
Human sacrifice in all its forms . . . is the most eloquently
symbolic act which the dreaming Selfhood is capable of
performing. It illustrates every aspect of the Fall, and
parodies every aspect of eternal life. . . . The motive for
human sacrifice is . . . an effort to express the ascendance
of nature and reason in society.12
In Frye's explanation Nature and reason band together to torture
humanity. Nature, the ideology of keeping what is, provides the
excuse for falling into patterns of unimaginative repetition.
Reason, the insistence on respectable order, provides the
justification for trying to remove recalcitrant or rebellious
elements from society. Together Nature and Reason fight to keep
out new vision, to restrict the possibilities of life, and to
disqualify the coincidence of opposites that is necessary before
we can see a way out of the cycle of torture.
As the torture between female and male continues, a cycle of
youth and old age sets in. Leaving behind any pretense of
realistic travel literature, the poem shows the female moving
backward in time:
Her fingers number every Nerve
Just as a Miser counts his gold
She lives upon his shrieks & cries
And she grows young as he grows old.
In this cannibalistic image, the female grasps, manipulates, and
hoards. By living upon the male's shrieks and cries, she implies
that she can live only at the expense of his pain. Thus, as in
the whole poem, a zero-sum game is played: one contestant can
gain only by making the opponent lose. To make herself more and
to make the male less, the old woman uses the youthful energy of
his protests to nourish herself. In this way new life serves to
replenish and nourish old age, but instead of living with the new
life in a reciprocal relationship, the old life attempts to
control the young life and feed off it vampirishly. Such feeding
enables old age to feel that it is not growing older. Old age
can not stand to grow older, because it wants to remain in a
fixed state in order to fend off death. In a perversion of the
Eucharist, the old woman binds the youth and miraculously sucks
his blood out. She will not allow him to be an integral being to
experience but cuts out his heart and expose it to try to make
him feel the way she wants him to feel. She forces him to wear
his heart on his sleeve, to be sentimental. She wants to destroy
him instead of allowing him to grow.
She invades his body even further when she counts every nerve
as a miser counts his gold. This image of scientific analysis
and hoarding greed reinforces the feeling of control, of misuse.
The miser gorges himself on money as the past feeds itself on the
present, as the harvester can gorge himself, muttering "I deserve
it." This image will crystalize into riches as food later in the
poem. The past tries to assure its "futurity" by repressing the
present. This perversion can feel certain only if others are
tied down and destroyed, or best of all, ingested, assimilated,
A similar kind of language appears at the beginning of The
Four Zoas when Tharmas and Enion split apart. Tharmas, who hates
and dreads clear articulation, complains:
Why wilt thou Examine every little fibre of my soul
Spreading them out before the Sun like Stalks of flax to dry
The infant joy is beautiful but its anatomy
Horrible Ghast & Deadly nought shalt thou find in it
But Death Despair & Everlasting brooding Melancholy.
(Four Zoas 4:28-33, E298)
The analysis that Enion and the old/young woman perform on the
males takes vivid physical form, but it arises from rationalistic
analysis, the kind that wants to take everything apart and see
what makes it tick. "Our meddling intellect" does "murder to
When Urizen abjures his error near the end of The Four Zoas,
he relinquishes his desire for a fixed futurity:
O that I had never drank the wine nor eat the bread
Of dark mortality nor cast my view into futurity nor turnd
My back darkning the present clouding with a cloud
. . .
Seeking the Eternal which is always present to the wise
Then Go O dark futurity I will cast thee forth from these
Heavens of my brain nor will I look upon futurity more
I cast futurity away & turn my back upon that void
Which I have made for lo futurity is in this moment
Urizen's repentence is one of the solutions to the problem set up
in "The Mental Traveller." That solution never is stated in this
poem, but it is always potential.
As the cycle goes on, the female grows younger and the male
grows older until they reach the same age:
Till he becomes a bleeding youth
And she becomes a Virgin bright
Then he rends up his Manacles
And binds her down for his delight
The opportunity for mutuality appears as they reach same age, but
the moment of possible renewal passes as fast as it arrives, and
the male reciprocates the tortures. As with the births of the
babes at the start and end of the poem, the moment of potential
freedom becomes instead an opportunity for further exploitation.
Like the cycle of revenge that ruins the newness of birth, the
perverted reciprocity of revenge holds on to the previous
condition and allows it to infect the present state. At the
birth of the babe, the female ruined the potential for escape by
binding him; now at the conjunction of ages, the male ruins the
potential for escape by binding her. Any attempt to hold on to
the past is an attempt to freeze time, to allow no further
dissolution of an egotistical self that hates change. And
holding on to vengeance from the past turns the screw even
In Enscoe's Freudian reading of the male and female as son
and mother, 13 the mother seems to grow younger as the boy grows
older and she seems to become just another woman. In Enscoe's
reading, just as the woman finds joy in punishing that which gave
her sorrow, the male breaks his chains and ties her down for his
delight. Each revenges previous pain. The cycle of revenge goes
on. The potential for breaking out of the cycle is destroyed by
the binding which gives the male only a kind of perverted
pleasure, based, in Frye's terms, on jealousy:
The abstract reasoner cannot see a tree without dragging its
shadow off to the cave of his own mind. . . . The Selfhood
cannot love in the sense of establishing a kinship with the
beloved: it can regard the latter only as a possession,
something to contemplate in solitude.14
When the male invades the female's nerves as she had invaded
his, the torture becomes even worse. The cycle does not just
repeat itself; it spirals into more intense torture. Whereas she
counted and anatomized, he goes further by planting himself,
becoming a part of her, invading her more deeply than she did
He plants himself in all her Nerves
Just as a Husbandman his mould
And she becomes his dwelling place
And Garden fruitful seventy fold
Now instead of metaphors of divine and human sacrifice, the
metaphor becomes one of gardening. The female becomes mold or
fertile earth, to be planted in by the seed of the male.
Although plant and garden imagery is often pejorative in Blake,
in some cases it does herald a possibility of escape from
in Beulah the Feminine
Emanations Create Space. the Masculine Create Time, & plant
The Seeds of beauty in the Space
Near the end of Jerusalem, in the most important Blakean example
of the redemptive value of gardening, Los realizes that he must
act not only as a hammering, active blacksmith, but also as a
waiting, passive farmer:
The land is markd for desolation & unless we plant
The seeds of Cities & of Villages in the Human bosom
Albion must be a rock of blood. (83:54-56)
Again, however, the cycles of "The Mental Traveller" blast
the potential for fulfillment. Although the garden image
contains hope, the male character instead exploits its vengeful
portion: by domesticating the female, he makes her into the
ultimate housewife--a wife who is also a house: "And she becomes
his dwelling place." Some interpreters, such as Nurmi and
Bouwer, see this stanza as positive:
The Spiritual principle [male], now dominant, is able to
control the natural world [female] with increasing ease and
joy, where before . . . it could express itself in nature
only through suffering.15
Yet Enscoe pinpoints both the extremity of the male's invasion
and its potential for reversal. He calls the action,
procreation by domination. It is 'himself' he is planting,
and ironically the self he plants will become the female Babe
who will drive him away into the desert later in the poem.16
Thus Enscoe's reading incorporates the favorable interpretation
by Bouwer, but judges the male's planting as cruel, even while
pointing out its unexpected, freeing result. At this point, a
reader sees the diminishment of the female, but can hardly
imagine her imminent liberation.
Soon the female, who has been so degraded, seems to disappear
from the poem as the old man wanders around the house all alone:
An aged Shadow soon he fades
Wandring round an Earthly Cot
Full filled all with gems & gold
Which he by industry had got
In their insistence on maintaining a positive view of the male,
who in their reading consistently represents the human spirit as
against the female world of nature, Bouwer and McNally interpret
this stanza as a positive view of the male. Thus, by trying to
maintain a consistent, fixed view, they fall into laborious
We suggest that "aged" merely indicates that the Spritual
principle is nearing full manifestation and greatest
The male has achieved a very perverse potency indeed: not
only has the woman been reduced to garden and house, but she has
been reduced to smaller, precious commodities--jewels. When a
woman is referred to as a jewel, she is being equated with the
object of greed, miserliness, and possession. She is small,
beautiful, helpless, in fact almost non-existent, except as an
embodiment of the ultimate object of man's desire.
The gems become emblems simultaneously of courtly love and
And these are the gems of the Human Soul
The rubies & pearls of a lovesick eye
The countless gold of the akeing heart
The martyrs groan & the lovers sigh.
In this stanza Blake rings changes on his own short poem,
The countless gold of a merry heart
The rubies & pearls of a loving eye
The indolent never can bring to the mart
Nor the secret hoard up in his treasury.
These gems of love and joy in this other poem, like the joy in
the epigraph to this chapter, can not be trapped and hoarded.
But the twists of pain and jealousy can become the miser's
object. Blake delineates the psychology of this dynamic in one
of the most bitter passages in Jerusalem:
All Quarrels arise from Reasoning. the secret Murder, and
The violent Man-slaughter. these are the Spectres double Cave
The Sexual Death living on accusation of Sin & Judgment
To freeze Love & Innocence into the gold & silver of the
Without Forgiveness of Sin Love is Itself Eternal Death.
The gems thus, like most of the images in the poem, contain a
dual potential: they can be pain or they can be joy. If joy,
they are free and creative. If pain, they are trapped and
unimaginative, but still bursting with potential. Like every
other potential in the poem, though, they are twisted into
exploitation. As the ultimate exploited object, they become
They are his meat they are his drink
He feeds the Beggar & the Poor
And the wayfaring Traveller
For ever open is his door.
Consistently, Bouwer and McNally interpret this image as
Stanzas 10 and 11 . . . describe the state of Eden. . . . the eternal
forms appear fully assembled as the 'Family Divine.' This family is the
'Council of God.'18
Although exaggerated, this interpretation does underline the
potential of regeneration. Greediness has become charity, at
least, although Blake's comments on charity in other contexts
make the value ambiguous at best. When the woman was old and the
man was young, she fed off him. Now the positions are reversed
as the cycle has turned almost 180 degrees. Just as they torture
and submit to each other in perversions of genuine love, so the
aged man takes the profits that he has made by exploiting the
woman, does not even leave them in their organic form, but
hardens them, makes them metallic, and uses them to exploit
others in the name of charity. "Pity would be no more if we did
not make somebody poor." And indeed the old man has already done
his part to make another poor by exploiting the woman earlier.
His grief, like the devouring joy in stanza 1, makes others
His grief is their eternal joy
They make the roofs & walls to ring
Till from the fire on the hearth
A little Female Babe does spring
And she is all of solid fire
And gems & gold that none his hand
Dares stretch to touch her Baby form
Or wrap her in his swaddling-band.
Now the female reappears. Having been reduced into complete
domesticity, into becoming a very house, she now is reborn from
the hearth, the ultimate reduction of the household. The female,
who had seemingly been eliminated, thus reveals herself as a
principle that can not be destroyed. She cannot be repressed.
She must return. The apparent reduction, even destruction of the
famale has not taken place at all. She has merely changed her
conditions, her states, and now comes back stronger than ever.
According to Morton Paley, the female babe is the archetypal
evil female, who
unites numerous evil females of Blake's pantheon. . . . She
is the sum of what the male has created up to this point and
so represents, not an imaginative achievement at all, as some
have suggested but the entirely materialist values of the
According to Adams, at the other extreme, she is a force for
creativity. He even goes so far as to assert that the man she
loves is the narrator with whom she leaves the poem.20
Once again, a reader who can see both these extremes at the
same time comes closer than the reader who can see only one
extreme. Of course Paley is correct that the female babe is a
result of the materialistic values of the host; after all, she
has been beaten down and domesticated by him. On the other hand,
Adams is correct that she is a counter force to materialism, that
she is a creative force. For Paley assumes that no creativity
can arise from its diametrical opposite, materialism. But the
point of Blake's use of the patterns of coincidentia oppositorum
is that creativity can and does arise from materialism. Paley's
vision would miss that miracle, and would probably not understand
the potential for renewal at this mid-way point in the poem.
Such a miss would allow the horrible cycle to continue while the
female babe is about to escape from tyranny into freedom.
Enscoe's interpretation accommodates the doubleness, but goes
to the extreme of missing the negative aspects of exploitation:
This grief ["His grief is their eternal joy"] is positive.
If the Host felt no grief, if he were happy in his position
as domineering tyrant, no hope of change would exist, no
movement would take place from one 'state' to another, no
"wanderers" would ever become "travellers."21
While Enscoe is correct in pointing out that the grief produces
changes in state that may lead to a more comprehensive vision,
and while his insight that some of the "cold Earth wanderers" of
line 4 may become mental travellers with the broad vision of the
narrator, he neglects to acknowledge the genuine pain of
materialism and exploitation. The gems to which the female had
been reduced now reappear as the solid gems of the female babe,
active instead of passive, strong instead of weak, free instead
of imprisoned. Thus the limit of reduction turns back against
its oppressor, but by refusing to repress him in turn, escapes
from the trap, in a way similar to the escape of Prometheus at
the start of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.
We are not told why she can not be touched but the strong
implication is that she is simply too fierce. She resists the
ideology of naturalness that allows the boy babe in stanza 2
easily to be handed over to the old torturing woman. I agree
with Enscoe's reading that the female babe is a hopeful sign,22
the most hopeful among many such moments in the poem, similar to
but even stronger than the birth of the young male at the
beginning of the poem, and his reappearance at the end of the
poem. The young female is a sign that there is hope to break
from the cycle. She is the only one who does not get caught in
the cycle. And indeed she will be the only character who does
escape from the cycle to find a new life. Every new birth gives
such a hope, whereas the mere cycle of young-old-young-old-young
promises nothing but the same old mistakes over and over again.
Not only can no one touch her, but no one can wrap her in a
swaddling band. This image not only reminds us that she cannot
be restricted, but also reminds us of the birth of Christ, the
sacrifice par excellence, who was invoked in stanzas 3 and 4.
She is neither a passive sexual victim nor a sadistic sexual
aggressor, as is every other character in the poem.
But She comes to the Man she loves
If young or old or rich or poor
They soon drive out the aged Host
A Beggar at anothers door.
She uses the power of her will to make a conscious choice instead
of imposing herself or being imposed upon, as do the other
characters. "The female babe has choices beyond the perceptual
scope of the poem."23 And she does not use the state of the man,
"young or old or rich or poor," to determine her choice. Instead
of acting out of a reflex of revenge, she, as an individual,
chooses another individual rather than simply reacting to him
because of his state. She freely comes to the man she loves
without regard to his condition becasue she will not exploit him,
and she will not be exploited by him. Bloom reads her choice of
a lover as a rejection of age in favor of youth.24 But such an
interpretation flies in the face of the explict disclaimer, "if
young or old or rich or poor." The categories that determine the
other actions in the poem do not determine hers, just as the
ideologies of "nature" and reason do not determine the decisions
She is not choosing youth, but a different psychological
state, just as her original condition after birth was a state not
amenable to the tortures of the cycle. What she chooses is so
different from the values of the rest of the poem that she must
disappear from the poem entirely. What is important is that she
freely chooses her lover and makes a new life for herself outside
the cycle. Many critics, including Bloom, see this as nature
turning against man, but in fact the man carries on the cycle
without her because she has left the cycle. She did not turn
against him. She refused the cycle of mutual torture. We see
her no more because she now lives beyond this poem, in a
different state, a different dimension, which we will not see
directly until the conclusions of Blake's epics.
This frozen man's own frozen state drives him out. He is
driven out because he deserves to be. Since above I have used
one of Blake's definitions of the prophetic character as a
general guide to my interpretation of "The Mental Traveller," one
of his other definitions of the prophet will be helpful at this
point. The prophet, according to Blake, is not one who can
simply predict the future. The prophet, speaking his opinion
frankly, is one who sees deeply into the meanings and results of
Every honest man is a Prophet he utters his opinion both of
private & public matters/Thus/If you go on So/the result is
So/He never says such a thing shall happen let you do what
The entire cycle of "The Mental Traveller" is caused by the ways
in which the male and female go on. The old man has not been
harmed by the female babe. Quite the contrary, he has created
the very situation in which he must be driven out into the
freezing cold. Clinging, reducing, trying greedily to grasp his
present state, he has created his own metaphysics, as does the
angel in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, who sees the horrors of
spiders, Leviathan, and tygers, and is told, "All that we saw was
owing to your metaphysics" (E42).
Having exploited the woman-garden, hoarded up his jewels like
a miser, and then pityingly fed off them and fed them to others,
the old man loses the love of the female babe, who will not be
bound. He has reached the limit of contraction; he has pushed so
far that he gets pushed back. The old man who pitied and fed the
beggars now becomes himself a beggar; he becomes what he beheld.
Whereas earlier he wandered inside his own Cot, this time his
wandering takes him far away. At least in his cottage surrounded
by his jewels, he could feel some material security. Now
completely lost, his security fades even further away.
Miserliness and jealous holding do not guarantee that he can keep
his possessions; despite (or perhaps because of) his greed, his
possessions flee his grasp. He is now pitiful himself and
dependent on the mercy and charity of others:
He wanders weeping far away
Untill some other take him in
Oft blind & age-bent sore distrest
Untill he can a Maiden win
Wandering and lost, he thinks his distress can be alleviated
only by winning, conquering a maiden. He wants her as an object
because he can not live with an independent female. Although the
woman he finds is not a continuation of the female babe, who has
chosen a path out of the cycle, she does seem to be a
continuation of the earlier females who were bound down.
Although he is wandering in time and space, he remains in the
same psychological state of egotistical grasping. When the
female babe breaks out of the cycle, the male keeps the cycle
going by finding a substitute. Refusing the potential for escape
that he has just been shown, he tries to recapture the domestic
woman of line 27. He does not come to her or allow her to come
to him, but instead insists on winning her as a prize, thus
perpetuating the cycle of exploitation. Instead of two mutually
agreeing to come together, one dominates the other, making the
other into an object of torture and perverse pleasure:
And to allay his freezing Age
The Poor Man takes her in his arms
The Cottage fades before his sight
The Garden and its lovely Charms.
Once he grasps the maiden, even the little vision that remained
fades away. He has reached his limit of age, his limit of
contraction, and now even his false visions disappear. He has
already been forced (because he was first an exploiter and then a
pitying philanthropist) to leave the cottage, garden, and inn and
wander far away from them. When he tries to regain what he has
lost, even the re-won cottage and garden fade from his sight.
Even the possibilities of the kind of perverted love that he
possessed before have disappeared. His grasping exploitation
destroys life, and so now the whole universe becomes a desert
which his perversions have created for him. The cycle worsens:
instead of a garden and jewels on which to feed, he has no food
at all. The guests who had been able to find some kind of
shelter and food are now scattered, just as the old man himself
had previously been driven away:
The Guests are scatterd thro' the land
For the Eye altering alters all
The Senses roll themselves in fear
And the flat Earth becomes a Ball.
The last two lines of this stanza, although not simple, are
fairly easily understood: Blake consistently prefers a vision of
a flat Earth to that of a round one. The round Earth is a result
of the roundness of the eye, which is a limitation of the
potential for infinite vision. The second line of the stanza,
however, suggests Blake's peculiar delineations of perspectives
of vision. Those perspectives range from a rather simple
concept--our perceptions are limited to our immediate
surroundings--to a complex conceit of vortices that strains even
the best interpretive talents of Northrop Frye and Harold Bloom.
In a strange (but strangely commonsensical) passage in
Milton, Blake redefines a person's universe as the space in which
The Sky is an immortal Tent built by the Sons of Los
And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:
Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;
And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:
The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set
On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move.
(Milton 29:4-12), E126)
A reader might think that Blake is mocking this limited kind of
existence, in which the individual perceives only his own tiny
world. But as the passage goes one, Blake attacks abstract
Where'er he goes & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss:
Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension:
As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner,
As of a Globe rolling thro Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro
(Milton 29:13-16; E126)
The reader of Milton is given much help in that poem to grasp
this concept of space: instead of an abstract round globe that
can be conceived only by reason, a globe that no one can
perceive, Blake gives us a homey neighborhood of a universe,
individualized, mobile, and alive. We do not receive much help
with this concept in "The Mental Traveller," and yet the
conception seems essentially the same: each individual carries a
universe, which can be changed if the individual's perceptions
change, for better or for worse.
So far, so good. One of Blake's most notorious passages,
however, ratchets this issue of perspectives up a few notches:
The nature of infinity is this: That every thing has its
Own Vortex; and when once a traveller thro' Eternity
Has passd that Vortex, he percieves it roll backward behind
His path, into a globe itself infolding; like a sun:
Or like a moon, or like a universe of starry majesty,
While he keeps onwards in his wondrous journey on the earth
Or like a human form, a friend with whom he livd benevolent.
As the eye of man views both the east & west encompassing
Its vortex; and the north & south, with all their starry host;
Also the rising sun & setting moon he views surrounding
His corn-fields and the valleys of five hundred acres square.
Thus is the earth one infinite plane, and not as apparent
To the weak traveller confin'd beneath the moony shade.
Thus is the heaven a vortex passd already, and the earth
A vortex not yet pass'd by the traveller thro' Eternity.
Nurmi uses this passage as a way of explaining what happens in
"The Mental Traveller":
The aged outcast passes through a 'vortex'--that curious optical-symbolic
phenomenon of Blake's in which a perceiver goes as far with one kind of
perception as he can and passes through the object, as it were, to the
other side to a different way of looking at it.26
This solid explanation clearly implies the reversal in vision
that happens in the poem: flat planes become spheres as the
perceiver seems to be seeing through the wrong end of a weird
Harold Bloom's explanation captures the doubleness of eternal
vision as he puts center and circumference together:
The vortex is the eddy or whirlpool of eternal consciousness,
whose center is the object eternal consciousness intends.
Since center and circumference are not separate in eternal
vision, the perceiver is at once the apex of his vision, and
yet able to regard it from a distance. But when Milton
passes into Beulah, he leaves eternity for time, and moves to
the apex of his own vision. He is thus objectified, and the
eternal circumference of his vision rolls up behind him. The
eddy of perception is solidified into the globed universe of
Newtonian observation. What survives of eternal vision
depends upon the temporal perceiver's imagination, for he can
still encompass his vortex and see the object world in its
human dimension (line 27), as "one infinite plane" (32). 27
Bloom's explanation may be more obscure than Blake's passage. As
so often, the best explanation comes from Northrop Frye:
. . . when we see ourselves as imprisoned in a huge concave
vault of sky we are seeing from the point of view of a head
that is imprisoned in a concave vault of bone. . . . Blake
says that everything in eternity has what he calls a 'vortex'
(perhaps rather a vortex-ring), a spiral or cone of
existence. When we focus both eyes on one object, say a
book, we create an angle of vision opening into our minds
with the apex pointing away from us. The book therefore has
a vortex of existence opening into its mental reality within
our minds. When Milton descends from eterntiy to time, he
finds that he has to pass through the apex of his cone of
eternal vision, which is like trying to see a book from the
book's point of view; the Lockian conception of the real book
as outside the mind on which the vision of the fallen world
is based. This turns him inside out, and from his new
perspective the cone rolls back and away from him in the form
of a globe. That is why we are surrounded with a universe of
remote globes, and are unable to see that the earth is 'one
infinite plane.' But in eternity the perceiving mind or body
is omnipresent, and hence these globes in eternity are inside
Before the Fall, Man was abolute wisdom, and was the
circumference of everything. Nothing then existed outside
Albion: sun, moon, stars, the center of the earth and the
depth of the sea, were all within his mind and body, a body
fully conscious of being alive, not only in its brain, but in
all parts of iteself down to the feet. Hence 'opening a
centre,' as described above, is the imagination's way of
reversing the fallen perspective of the world, and uniting an
individual imagination with the universal one.28
Of course the process in "The Mental Traveller" is the reverse of
the kind of opening that Frye describes. Instead of achieving a
visionary perspective, the male in the poem is making sure that
he deepens his fallen perspective.
The reason that the narrator can see what cold earth
wanderers can not is that he has adjusted his vision so that he
sees the opposites of center and circumference simultaneously.
He has passed through the states of pain and jealousy that
pervade that poem. But the characters within the poem, with the
possible exception of the female babe and her lover, do not see
clearly and in fact do not take the opportunities offered them to
see clearly. Instead they perpetuate the cycle of repression,
torment, and submission.
The loss of vision and sustenance continues as vision
continues to shrink:
The Stars Sun Moon all shrink away
A desart vast without a bound
And nothing left to eat or drink
And a dark desart all around.
The Ptolemaic universe, become the Copernican, is now the
Newtonian, where all is mathematical and finite. Instead of an
infinite flat earth close to the heavenly bodies, the altered
vision of the aged man creates a sterile, mathematical earth,
infertile with nothing but desert. At least earlier he had been
able to plant a garden, even if it was built on the pain of
another. Instead of a vision that includes the coincidence of
opposites, this vision can see only separation.
Again, it is important to emphasize that the poem itself does
not give us direct reason for hopes of fuller vision, but in
juxtaposition to those poems that do, we can obtain a fuller
understanding of the limits in "The Mental Traveller."
Now at the limit of sterility, the male figure begins to
return to his childhood.
The honey of her Infant lips
The bread & wine of her sweet smile
The wild game of her roving Eye
Does him to Infancy beguile.
The honey seems like the manna in the desert for the children of
Israel in their wanderings. The bread and wine seem like the
Eucharist. However, the imagery turns sour as the stanza
proceeds. The honey and bread and wine become a wild game from a
roving eye. Flirtation keeps the cycle going. As a corollary to
the old man who could imagine only a maiden whom he could win and
clutch, now the female can imagine only a man whom she can lead
on, instead of meeting directly. She does not simply lead or
inspire him but beguiles him, with more than a hint of guile.
For as he eats & drinks he grows
Younger & younger every day
And on the desart wild they both
Wander in terror & dismay.
Again a moment of escape seems to flit past as the male grows
younger to reach the age of the female. In stanza 6 the terms
"bleeding youth" and "virgin bright" clearly implied that they
were about the same age. Here in stanza 19 the implication is
more subtle, but as the strange ascent and descent in age
continues, they must once again be at the same age. Missing
their opportunity, they struggle on, lost and separate.
The splitting of male and female is predominant in Blake's
myth, usually based on the Bible creation story, and usually
personified in Los and Enitharmon:
She separated stood before him a lovely Female weeping
Even Enitharmon separated outside, & his Loins closed
And heal'd after the separation: his pains he soon forgot:
Lured by her beauty outside of himself in shadowy grief.
Two Wills they had; Two Intellects; & not as in times of old.
Silent they wanderd hand in hand like two Infants wandring
From Enion in the desarts, terrified at each others beauty
Envying each other yet desiring, in all devouring Love
He feeds off her, just as earlier the man had made the woman into
his garden. But this time the female is the active one, he the
willing victim. In perversions of potential sexual relationships
the female feeds off the pain of the male, and the male feeds off
the teasing of the female. The intensification of the horrors of
the cycle leaves the two main characters now wandering together
and yet apart in the desert. No longer do we have a rock with
nails, nor do we have a cottage or a garden, all with some kind
of permanence and security. For security can not be forced, and
the more one tries to force it, the less one has it.
Like the wild Stag she flees away
Her fear plants many a thicket wild
While he pursues her night & day
By various arts of Love beguild.
Now instead of her active teasing, her passive fear is
emphasized. The result of that fear is a planting of thickets,
obstacles to the male's pursuit. And yet soon those thickets
change their connotation from obstruction to fertility in the
By various arts of Love & Hate
Till the wide desart planted oer
With Labyrinths of wayward Love
Where roams the Lion Wolf & Boar.
The second line of that stanza again gives us a glimpse of a
possibility of fertility, but soon that possibility is perverted
into messy "Labyrinths." In a technique similar to that in the
opening two lines of the poem--"I travelled through a land of Men
/ A Land of Men & Women too"--Blake repeats the last line of
stanza 20 in the first of 21: "By various arts of Love beguild /
By various arts of Love and Hate." The repetition with addition
reveals a split concealed by the traditional term. As generic
man includes hidden woman in the first stanza, so generic love
includes hidden hate. The most basic opposites in human
existence, as many cliches realize, live inextricably together.
When the male reaches his renewed youth and the woman her
renewed old age, we feel that we are very close to where we
started. In fact we are almost there, but before we get to that
terrible promise of repetition of the cycle, we see one more
glimmer of hope, the most beautiful and extended image in the
Till he becomes a wayward Babe
And she a weeping Woman Old
Then many a Lover wanders here
The Sun & Stars are nearer rolld
The trees bring forth sweet Extacy
To all who in the desart roam
Till many a City there is Built
And many a pleasant shepherds home.
Many interpreters see this passage as positive, as another
chance for renewal:
The moment when man may return to Eden is at hand, and
everything is fruitful and productive. A Second Coming has
arrived, if only mankind knew it.29
While the male is still a Babe, and the woman is merely
weeping over the past but is not actively continuing the
cycle, a brief glimpse of another possibility is presented.30
The world that had shrunk and fallen away from the stars, the
world that had become a desert without civilization or shepherds,
has now become a city and a pasture once again. The labyrinths
of thickets caused by the torments of love and jealousy in
stanzas 20-21 have been transformed into sweet trees. The beauty
of this scene offers itself for man and woman if they will only
accept it. The two people are not happy, to be sure, for he is
wayward and she is weeping, but there is hope of possible
repentance here. After all, hasn't the altering eye provided its
own best environment? Many lovers wander here how; even if lost,
they may hope that the guests will return, that the mistakes of
the past can be made up for.
Suddenly, after this respite, the horrors of the cycle
reassert themselves. There is no joy in the discovery of the
babe this time, as there was in stanza 2. In fact the babe is
not "born" as he was in the beginning of the poem, marking a new
beginning. Instead he has reached his present condition by
regressing from adulthood.
But when they find the frowning Babe
Terror strikes thro the region wide
They cry the Babe the Babe is Born
And flee away on Every side
For who dare touch the frowning form
His arm is witherd to its root
Lions Boars Wolves all howling flee
And every Tree does shed its fruit
And none can touch that frowning form
Except it be a Woman Old
She nails him down upon the Rock
And all is done as I have told.
In the beginning the babe was easily given to the old woman, but
here he can be touched by none but an old woman. Anyone else who
tries to touch (in order to bind) destroys himself. Even the
wild beasts that helped make the labyrinths of wayward love more
terrifying are terrified by this new babe. The trees that had
brought forth ecstasy give up their fruit.
The last line of the poem--"And all is done as I have told"--
seems to indicate that the cycle will be repeated endlessly. In
fact, since the babe seems even more terrifying than he did in
stanza 2, the ending implies that the cycle will progressively
worsen. And yet, despite its apparent bleakness, the poem works
to encourage in us the hope that the horrible cycle can be
broken. In fact, if the babe can not be so easily rounded up,
perhaps he, like the female babe in the middle of the poem, can
find a new consciousness outside this closed universe.
Two critics in particular enunciate a hopeful interpretation
of the poem. Enscoe and Adams both place their faith in the
voice of the narrator. Enscoe cliams--and his claim I believe
can be allowed only on the strength of the first stanza--that the
narrator clearly speaks from a larger perspective:
Blake has presented an alternative to this world of the male-
female struggle for domination. . . . a voice speaking from a
state that allows men to see beyond present reality.31
Adams goes even further to link the narrator with Blake's
creative hero in the later poems and indeed to implicate Los in
the poem itself: "The speaker of the poem is Los and he has been
loved by the female babe."32
Thus the narrator has actively participated in breaking the cycle
by escaping with the female babe.
I think that both Enscoe and Adams read too much into the
poem, but I do agree with the spirit of their interpretations.
Although the poem itself does not provide us with such a robust
hope, we can legimately read it in the context of Blake's later
works, where such robust hope unmistakably appears. "The Mental
Traveller," then, is the scorching, despairing portrait of human
existence, epitomized in male-female struggles, when caught in
the ratio of limited vision. It is all the more painful in that
the characters constantly miss the glimpses of a larger, more
poetic vision that would allow them to escape the cycle.
As the cycle spins, centrifugal force drives the characters
out. Only the female babe takes the leap provided by such
propulsion. All the other characters impose the centripetal
force of clinging egotism, trying to hold the sacred, secret
center. Instead of creating a dynamic interpenetration of
opposites, they create a deadly balance.
Notes to Chapter 6: Blake's "Mental Traveller"
1. Acts of Inclusion (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979), p. 150.
2. Wheels of Eternity (NY: St. Martin's, 1990), pp. 3, 101.
3. The New Apocalypse, (Lansing: Michigan UP, 1967), pp. 215-16.
4. Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton UP, 1969), p. 221.
5. Hamlet II.ii.295.
6. Izak Bouwer, and Paul McNally, "'The Mental Traveller': Man's
Eternal Journey," Blake: An Illustrated Newsletter, Winter 1978-
79, p. 186.
7. Cooke, Acts, p. 153.
8. Martin Nurmi, "Joy, Love, and Innocence in Blake's 'The
Mental Traveller,'" Studies in Romanticism, 3 (1964), p. 112.
9. Enscoe, p. 405.
10. Nurmi, p. 110.
11. Frye, Fearful, pp. 207-35; Nurmi, p. 109.
12. Frye, Fearful, pp. 397, 399.
13. Enscoe, p. 405.
14. Frye, Fearful, p. 72.
15. Bouwer, p. 187.
16. Enscoe, p. 406.
17. Bouwer, p. 187.
18. Bouwer, p. 187.
19. Paley, p. 97.
20. Hazard Adams, "The Mental Traveller," in Adams, William
Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems (Seattle: Univ. of
Washington, 1963), p. 100.
21. Enscoe, p. 408.
22. Enscoe, p. 408.
23. Ault, p. 189.
24. Blake's Apocalypse (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1963), p. 294.
25. "Annotations to Watson," E617.
26. Nurmi, p. 114.
28. Frye, Fearful, p. 350.
29. Nurmi, p. 115.
30. Enscoe, p. 412.
31. Enscoe, p. 413.
32. Adams, "Mental," p. 100.