“Christ’s Nativity” by John Milton and Wiliam Blake

A few decades prior to writing his famous epic, Paradise LostJohn Milton composed this thirty-one-stanza ode—his first major work in English. Written in 1629 when he was just 21, the poem examines the cosmic significance of the incarnation, celebrating Christ’s triumph over the gods of paganism from the manger.

Regarding the poem’s composition, Milton wrote to his friend Charles Diodati,

I am singing the King of Heaven, bringer of peace, and the fortunate days promised by the Holy Book, the wanderings of God and the stabling under a poor roof of Him who rules with his Father the realms above; the star that led the wizards, the hymning of angels in the air and the gods flying to theirendangered fanes. This poem I made as a birthday gift for Christ; the first light of Christmas dawn brought me the theme.” (qtd. by Walter Taylor Field, 1907)

Between 1803 and 1815, visionary poet and visual artist William Blake painted on commission two sets of watercolors to illustrate the poem—one for the Rev. Joseph Thomas (the “Thomas set”), and one for Thomas Butts (the “Butts set”). Each set contains six watercolors which are very similar to one another, though not identical. The list of illustrations is as follows. (You’ll notice that not all the stanzas are illustrated.)

  1. The Descent of Peace (stanzas 1-3)
  2. The Annunciation to the Shepherds (stanzas 8-12)
  3. The Old Dragon (stanza 18)
  4. The Overthrow of Apollo and the Pagan Gods (stanzas 19-23)
  5. The Flight of Moloch (stanza 23)
  6. The Night of Peace (stanza 27)

 

“On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”

THE HYMN

I.
It was the winter wild,
While the heaven-born child
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature, in awe to him,
Had doffed her gaudy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the Sun, her lusty Paramour.

II.
Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow,
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,
The saintly veil of maiden white to throw;
Confounded, that her Maker’s eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.

III.
But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyed Peace:
She, crowned with olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphere,
His ready Harbinger,
With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;
And, waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.

Blake nativity

The Descent of Peace (stanzas 1-3)

William Blake, “The Descent of Peace” (Thomas set), 1809. Watercolor on paper, 19.4 x 25.5 cm. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England. Description: Peace breaks through the heavenly spheres, dispersing the clouds and waving her myrtle wand, while Nature (below) covers her nakedness with a snowy veil as she pays reverence to her Lord.

VIII.
The Shepherds on the lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they than
That the mighty Pan1
Was kindly come to live with them below:
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.

IX.
When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet
As never was by mortal finger strook,
Divinely-warbled voice
Answering the stringèd noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.

X.
Nature, that heard such sound
Beneath the hollow round
Of Cynthia’s seat2 the airy Region thrilling,
Now was almost won
To think her part was done,
And that her reign had here its last fulfilling:
She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all Heaven and Earth in happier union.

XI.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shamefaced Night arrayed;
The helmèd Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displayed,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive3 notes, to Heaven’s newborn Heir.

XII.
Such music (as ’tis said)
Before was never made,
But when of old the Sons of Morning sung,
While the Creator great
His constellations set,
And the well-balanced World on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep.

William Blake, "The Annunciation to the Shepherds," 1809. Watercolor on paper, 19.3 x 25.5 cm. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England. The Annunciation to the Shepherds (stanzas 8-12)

William Blake, “The Annunciation to the Shepherds” (Thomas set), 1809. Watercolor on paper, 19.3 x 25.5 cm. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England.

XVIII.
And then at last our bliss
Full and perfect is,
But now begins; for from this happy day
The Old Dragon under ground,
In straiter limits bound,
Not half so far casts his usurpèd sway,
And, wroth to see his Kingdom fail,
Swindges6 the scaly horror of his folded tail.

The Old Dragon by William Blake

William Blake, “The Old Dragon” (Thomas set), 1809. Watercolor on paper, 19.3 x 25.3 cm. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England.

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The Beast and the Whore of Babylon, elsewhere associated with institutionalized religion by Blake, are here overthrown along with Satan

The Overthrow of Apollo by William BlakeThe Overthrow of Apollo and the Pagan Gods (stanzas 19-23)

William Blake, “The Overthrow of Apollo and the Pagan Gods” (Thomas set), 1809. Watercolor on paper, 19.3 x 25 cm. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England. Description: Pagan worshipers burn an offering to Apollo as his spirit flees its statue in fear. (The statue depicts Apollo’s defeat of the giant serpent Python, who had tormented his mother during her pregnancy.) To the right, a disheveled Nymph hides in a thicket to mourn, while above her, a train of refugee gods and goddesses fills the sky.

XIX.
The Oracles are dumb;
No voice or hideous hum
Runs through the archèd roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
Will hollow shriek the steep of Delphos1 leaving.
No nightly trance, or breathèd spell,
Inspires the pale-eyed Priest from the prophetic cell.

XX.
The lonely mountains o’er,
And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
Edgèd with poplar pale,
From haunted spring, and dale
The parting Genius2 is with sighing sent;
With flower-inwoven tresses torn
The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.

XXI.
In consecrated earth,
And on the holy hearth,
The Lars3 and Lemures4 moan with midnight plaint;
In urns, and altars round,
A drear and dying sound
Affrights the Flamens5 at their service quaint;
And the chill marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.

XXII.
Peor and Baalim6
Forsake their temples dim,
With that twice-battered god of Palestine;7
And moonèd Ashtaroth,8
Heaven’s Queen and Mother both,
Now sits not girt with tapers’ holy shine:
The Libyc Hammon9 shrinks his horn;
In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz10 mourn.

XXIII.
And sullen Moloch,11 fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
His burning idol all of blackest hue;
In vain with cymbals’ ring
They call the grisly king,
In dismal dance about the furnace blue;
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis,12 and Orus,13 and the dog Anubis,14 haste.

The Flight of Moloch by William Blake

The Flight of Moloch (stanza 23)

William Blake, “The Flight of Moloch” (Thomas set), 1809. Watercolor on paper, 19.7 x 25.7 cm. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England. Description: Worshipers of Moloch clang together cymbals and blow on trumpets as part of their infant sacrifice ritual. As they do, Moloch’s winged spirit departs from the molded image. The advent of his enemy, Jesus, has scared him away.

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The winged figure of the accuser, so like the spirit of Moloch, cements that god’s identification with Blake’s Spectre

XXVII

But see the Virgin blest,
Hath laid her Babe to rest.
Time is our tedious Song should here have ending,
Heav’ns youngest-teemed Star [ 240 ]
Hath fixt her polisht Car,
Her sleeping Lord with Handmaid Lamp attending.
And all about the Courtly Stable,
Bright-harnest Angels sit in order serviceable.

blake6The Night of Peace (stanza 27)

Posted on December 14, 2012by Victoria Emily Jones

Also see “Winged Life” at https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/09/12/william-blakes-mystic-visions-stunning-paintings/

 

 
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Music Swims Back To Us

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“Landfill Harmonic Is A Film about the Love of Music”

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

Before you proceed to the film review, let me tell you that to truly understand what happened in Cateura, you should watch an absolutely brilliant, fascinating classical music lesson by Benjamin Zander, a famous Ted talk on “The transformative power of classical music” at https://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion
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… “Landfill Harmonic” was a film that took me straight out of that lull. It made my soul smile, and I’m willing to bet that it will do the same to each and every one of you. Rarely does a film come by that touches you so purely. This is exactly what happened to me. “Landfill Harmonic” is a film that will inspire you, embrace your soul, and prove that magic can be found in the most unexpected places.

You can view the teaser for the film below:

I was given the privilege to see this film while attending SXSW this year, and it was amazing. I was touched by the plight of these people, and entranced at the ingenuity of them. To steal a line from “Jurassic Park”, “Life finds a way.” Humanity is a wonderful species, and “Landfill Harmonic” is one of the best examples of this.

There are too many instances where we discredit people due to race, gender, and circumstance, but given the opportunity, we all have the potential to shine. I highly suggest seeing this film when it releases. As some of you know, I have been a musician for most of my life, and “Landfill Harmonic” made me want to play. I don’t really have the words to describe this feeling, except to say that the film inspired me, and made me want to create something as beautiful as what I had just witnessed.

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

Here is the official SXSW synopsis of the film:

“Landfill Harmonic” follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage. When their story goes viral, the orchestra is catapulted into the global spotlight. Under the guidance of idealistic music director Favio Chavez, the orchestra must navigate a strange new world of arenas and sold-out concerts. However, when a natural disaster strikes their country, Favio must find a way to keep the orchestra intact and provide a source of hope for their town. The film is a testament to the transformative power of music and the resilience of the human spirit.

The way that these kids play their instruments is delightful and their passion for music is incredible. Favio Chavez is their teacher and mentor, and I had the opportunity to shake his hand. I really could tell him nothing except thank you. I don’t even think that thank you could begin to sum up my appreciation for him and what he has done in Paraguay. The funny thing is that he seemed to understand exactly what I was saying. This is one of the wonderful things about music.

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

The most impressive thing about the film is how the community has banded together to help these children. The children’s music brings them hope, and allows them to see that they can all change their stars.

“Landfill Harmonic” needs your help. Spread the word about this film. Be proactive and help contribute. Part of the proceeds from the film will go to the Recycled Orchestra. They take donated instruments as well. You can get all of the information that you need on the official site for the film, Landfillharmonicmovie.com.

Directed by Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley, “Landfill Orchestra” is a lesson in how precious life is, and why we should not take music and art for granted. I applaud everyone that has contributed to the making of the film, and especially Favio Chavez and the children. You keep on making brilliant music, because I get butterflies in my stomach every time I hear you play it.

Below, are some images from the film:

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham TownsleyLandfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

By “Landfill Harmonic Will Touch Your Soul” by  at http://flicksided.com/2015/03/20/landfill-harmonic-will-touch-your-soul/#respond

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Be sure not to miss their inspiring Ted talk at http://ed.ted.com/on/p2vivxdA

Healing the Wounded Soul

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The Difference between a Spiritual Father and a Psychologist

By Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos*

The spiritual Father, ought to perform his task on the basis of the Orthodox Tradition, it is clearly different from the psychologist, who works on the basis of an anthropocentric view of man and his life The psychologist wants to make people psychologically balanced. The spiritual father aims at man’s deification. The psychologist uses the views of whichever school of psychology he represents. The spiritual father uses the eternal word of God, which was revealed to the prophets, Apostles and saints.

The psychologist believes that illness is due primarily to traumatic experiences in the past, or so-called repressed experiences. The spiritual father is well aware that it is not simply a matter of memories of the past or repressed experiences stored up in the subconscious. A specific faculty of the soul is ill, the nous, which is the eye of the soul. The psychologist employs the method of questioning and listening. He tries to assist the person to become aware of his problem and helps him to mature psychologically. The spiritual father, illumined by the grace of God, locates the problem, which is the darkness of the nous or fantasies, and tries to lead the person to theoria of God by means of the Orthodox method of purification and illumination. The psychologist acts on the human level using thoughts and ideas. The spiritual father acts in a theanthropic way, on both the divine and human level. He uses the therapeutic method, but also sends Gods grace into the sick person’s heart through the Sacraments.

The psychologist thinks that everything happens on a human level, He does not acknowledge the existence of the devil and the energy of the uncreated grace of God. The spiritual father knows the difference between the grace of God, the energy of the devil, and spiritual and physical illness. The psychologist confines himself to making the ill person aware of his problem and enabling him to cope with it. The spiritual father guides the person to repentance, which means his complete transformation. He does not simply lead him to a point of rejecting certain states, but guides him towards the transformation of his passions. It is possible to find other significant differences between, a psychologist and a spiritual father, and the difference between anthropocentric and theocentric psychotherapy.

We accept the views of contemporary psychology and psychotherapy in two cases, as a concession. Firstly, in cases of people whose nervous system has been harmed for various reasons, such as physical or psychological problems. Secondly, in the cases of people who, by choice, have nothing to do with the Church and its Sacraments. I think they can be helped by modern psychology and psychotherapy, so as not to deteriorate further. Psychology can act as a pain-killer to comfort them in the dreadful despair in which they are imprisoned.

But, I repeat, man is created in the image of God and he must reach His likeness. This is, I could say, the final aim and secret entelechy of man. As long as this yearning is not satisfied and a person remains far from God, his suffering increases. Inasmuch as his basic destiny on earth, communion with God, is not fulfilled, no matter how much medicine he takes or how much psychoanalysis he undergoes, he will always be homeless and engaged in a tragic search. We want more than psychological balance; we are looking for fullness of life. We do not simply wish to develop religious feelings, but want our lives to be filled.

  • Yesterday a meeting with a young student of mine I really care about left me sleepless. Such anguish and suffering! Such a dead end! Still imprisoned in her psychiatric disorders, still refusing medication, still held captive by her vicious circle psychotherapy sessions, still trusting her therapist as God, still away from the great hospital for sick souls : the Church, still rejecting Christianity.

Winged Life

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Winged Life: William Blake’s Mystic Visions & Stunning Paintings

William Blake’s paintings are especially stunning when you see them close up.

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William Blake (1757–1827), one of the greatest poets in the English language, also ranks among the most original visual artists of the Romantic era. For Blake, the Bible was the greatest work of poetry ever written, and comprised the basis of true art.

For a slideshow of 47 paintings by William Blake, go to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/william-blake

For William Blake’s Complete Works, go to his archive at http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/indexworks.htm


William Blake’s Visions

From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions. The first may have occurred as early as the age of four when, according to one anecdote, the young artist “saw God” when God “put his head to the window”. .. At the age of eight or ten in Peckham Rye, London, Blake claimed to have seen “a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars.” On another occasion, Blake watched haymakers at work, and thought he saw angelic figures walking among them. As a young apprentice, he was sent to copy images from the Gothic churches in London. Blake experienced visions in the Westminster Abbey, he saw Christ and his Apostles and a great procession of monks and priests and heard their chant.

Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and may have inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake’s works. God and Christianity constituted the intellectual centre of his writings, from which he drew inspiration. Blake believed he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by the same Archangels.

In a letter of condolence to William Hayley, dated 6 May 1800, four days after the death of Hayley’s son, Blake wrote:

I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate.

In a letter to John Flaxman, dated 21 September 1800, Blake wrote:

[The town of] Felpham is a sweet place for Study, because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates; her windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen; & my Cottage is also a Shadow of their houses. My Wife & Sister are both well, courting Neptune for an embrace… I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers filled with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; & those works are the delight & Study of Archangels.