Illustrations to

The Grave


William Blake

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Last updated Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 12:57.

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eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

OF THE DESIGNS

By the arrangement here made, the regular progression of Man, from his first descent into the Vale of Death, to his last admission into Life eternal, is exhibited. These Designs, detached from the Work they embellish, form of themselves a most interesting Poem.

I. THE DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO THE GRAVE.

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“Eternal King, whose potent arm sustains
The keys of Death and Hell!”

II. THE DESCENT OF MAN INTO THE VALE OF DEATH.

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The pious daughter weeping and conducting her sire onward; age, creeping carefully on hands and knees; an elder, without friend or kindred; a miser; a bachelor, blindly proceeding, no one knows where, ready to drop into the dark abyss; frantic youth rashly devoted to vice and passion, rushing past the diseased and old, who totters on crutches; the wan declining virgin; the miserable and distracted widow; the hale country youth; and the mother and her numerous progeny, already arrived in this valley, are among the groups which speak irresistibly to the feelings.

III. DEATH’S DOOR.

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The Door opening, that seems to make utter darkness visible; age, on crutches, hurried by a tempest into it. Above is the renovated man seated in light and glory.

IV. THE STRONG AND WICKED MAN DYING.

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Extent of limb, a broad capacious chest, heaving in agony, and prodigious muscular force, so exerted as to pourtray the excruciating torments of mind and body, all contribute to give a fearful picture of the Strong and Wicked Man in the pangs of Death. His masculine soul is hurried through the casement in flame, while his daughter hides her face with horror not to be resisted, and his frantic wife rushes forward, as if resolved to share his fate.

V. THE GOOD OLD MAN DYING.

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Never perhaps were two subjects more happily conceived, and beautifully contrasted, than this and the former. In that all is confusion, hurry, and terror; in this are perfect repose, beatic hope, and heavenly consolation. Peace in his countenance, his hand on the gospel, his soul devoutly ascending to eternal bliss, his affectionate children, some in prayer, others believing, or at least anxiously hoping, that he still lives; all denote how great is the happiness of the Good Man in the Hour of Death.

VI. THE SOUL HOVERING OVER THE BODY.

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“How wishfully she looks
On all she’s leaving, now no longer her’s!”

VII. THE SOUL EXPLORING THE RECESSES OF THE GRAVE.

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The Soul, prior to the dissolution of the Body, exploring through and beyond the tomb, and there discovering the emblems of mortality and of immortality.

VIII. THE COUNSELLOR, KING, WARRIOR, MOTHER, AND CHILD.

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All are equal in the Grave. Wisdom, Power, Valour, Beauty, and Innocence, at the hour of death, alike are impotent and unavailing.

IX. THE SKELETON RE-ANIMATED.

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“When the dread trumpet sounds, the slumb’ring dust,
Not unattentive to the call, awakes”;

while the world in flames typifies the renovation of all things, the end of Time, and the beginning of Eternity.

X. THE RE-UNION OF SOUL AND BODY.

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The Body springs from the grave, the Soul descends from an opening cloud; they rush together with inconceivable energy; they meet, never again to part!

XI. A FAMILY MEETING IN HEAVEN.

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The sweet felicity, the endearing tenderness, the ineffable affection, that are here depicted, are sufficiently obvious. The Husband clasps the Wife; the Children embrace; the Boy recognises and eagerly springs to his Father.

XII. THE LAST JUDGMENT.

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Christ coming to judgment in the clouds of heaven, with the “Thrones set, and the Books opened.” On his knees lies the Book of Life. The Recording Angels kneel on each side of his throne, and the Elders are also seated on each side of Him to judge the world. Surrounding the throne are the blessed, entering into their joy; and arising from these, on each hand, are two clouds of figures: one with the insignia of Baptism; the other with the insignia of the Lord’s Supper, inclosing a glorification of angels, with harps. Beneath, on the right hand of Christ, are the blessed, rising in the air to judgment; on the left hand are the cursed: Some are precipitating themselves from the face of Him that sitteth on the Throne (among them is Satan, wound round with the Serpent), others are pleading their own righteousness, and others, beneath, fleeing with banners and spears among the rocks, crying to the “rocks to cover them.” Beneath these are represented the harlot’s mystery, and the dragon, who flee before the face of the Judge. In the centre, standing on the midst of the earth, is the angel with the last trumpet. On each side of him is an angel: that on the left is drawing his sword on the wicked; that on the right is sheathing his sword on the just, who are rising in various groups, with joy and affection, family by family. The angel with the trumpet, and his accompanying ministers of judgment, are surrounded by a column of flame, which spreads itself in various directions over the earth, from which the dead are bursting forth, some in terror, some in joy. On the opening cloud, on each hand of Christ, are two figures, supporting the books of remembrance: that over the just is beheld with humiliation; that over the wicked with arrogance. A sea of fire issues from beneath the throne of Christ, destructive to the wicked, but salutary to the righteous. Before the sea of Fire the clouds are rolled back, and the heavens “are rolled together as a scroll.”

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005