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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

IX. Blake

§ 14. Milton and Jerusalem

It was, apparently, the impossibility of fusing the old and new elements in The Four Zoas that led to its abandonment. Judged as literature, it suffers by reason of its formlessness and incoherence; yet, though it is often little better than mere clamour and outrageous imagery, there are scattered passages of much cogency and imaginative power. But it is chiefly of interest as a document in the history of Blake’s development. In 1804, he began to engrave Milton and Jerusalem. The former work describes the nature of his new inspiration, and also, as it would seem, the manner of its transmission. It tells how Milton redescended from his place in eternity—for, as Blake told Crabb Robinson, the author of Paradise Lost, in his old age, turned back to the God he had abandoned in childhood—in order to annihilate the error to which he had given currency in his great epic. To achieve this end, he entered into Blake at Felpham. Thus inspired, Blake becomes the prophet of the new ethic and proclaims the necessity to subdue the unregenerate self, the spectre which is in every man. And, in a variety of mythical episodes, he assails the fallacy of retributive morality, the natural religion of Satan, god of this world, and preaches the gospel of Jesus, the law of continual self-sacrifice and mutual forgiveness.