Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"The Crystal Cabinet" by William Blake

The Maiden caught me in the wild,
Where I was dancing merrily;
She put me into her Cabinet,
And lock'd me up with a golden key.

This cabinet is form'd of gold
And pearl and crystal shining bright,
And within it opens into a world
And a little lovely moony night.

Another England there I saw
Another London with its Tower,
Another Thames and other hills,
And another pleasant Surrey bower.

Another Maiden like herself,
Translucent, lovely, shining clear,
Threefold each in the other clos'd
O, what a pleasant trembling fear!

O, what a smile! a threefold smile
Fill'd me, that like a flame I burn'd;
I bent to kiss the lovely Maid,
And found a threefold kiss return'd.

I strove to seize the inmost form
With ardor fierce and hands of flame,
But burst the Crystal Cabinet,
And like a weeping Babe became--

A weeping Babe upon the wild,
And weeping Woman pale reclin'd,
And in the outward air again,
I fill'd with woes the passing wind.

"The Crystal Cabinet" tells the tale of an unhappy and
 unsuccessful love affair. It is a crossing of worlds for
 the speaker, who exists in one world at the beginning
 of the poem (“caught me in the wild”), captured and
 “lock’d up” in a second dimension (“another England there I saw”) and
 finally tossed into a third dimension (“a weeping Babe upon the wild”).

In Blake’s mythology, there lies three dimensions in which one could live.
The dimension of Eternity reflects the realm seen by man currently . Higher up Beulah sits, which like heaven, the goal of man lays. In Beulah, no conflict presents itself and all remains at peace, all is one. The lower of the dimensions is Ulro. Ulro is the realm of torment,
 suffering, and death (like hell). Ulro has no contact with
 Eternity and is where all the fallen souls end up.
In this poem, the speaker becomes the object of an erotic possessive maiden.
 The only significant metaphor is in line 4 (“Lock’d me up”) which
 is another way of saying forced sex (“put me into her cabinet”). It is at line 7 where
 the poem begins to shed its simple beginnings and enter the world of Blake mythology.
The reference to “threefold” in line 15 is when it is apparent which
 world the speaker has entered, the third of Blake’s worlds being Beulah.
 While in this new world, the speaker makes an attempt to comprehend
 the essence of his existence there and tries to make his time in this
 world permanent. This is one of the causes that will lead to his fall
 to Ulro. The other leading factor to the cause is how the speaker
 trades places with his maiden and becomes the possessive force in
 the relationship (“I strove to seize the inmost form / With ardor fierce & hands of flame”).
 In one of the few works we’ve talked about outside the song of innocence
 and experience, Blake delves into his own theories backing them with facts
 and stories such as this.

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