Saturday, September 5, 2009

Standing, breathing flame, bending upward
Click to enlarge.

The Butts print of Blake's "Behemoth and Leviathan" is an elevation of chapters 40 and 41 of the Book of Job from narrative to image. Cued by God's language

("Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee. . . . Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth. He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares"),

Blake translates it into a single comprehensive gesture. Concentrating his full creative power behind the gesture, God scornfully points downward. On either side of him hovers an angelic sycophant, watching with an attentive, worried, Father-is-in-one-of-his-moods expression. Crushed beneath the weight and warmth and odor of the divine body, Job and his comforters crouch as God's words pour over them in the cramped reservation between his heaven and his creation's earth.

Below the reservation, just touched by God's finger, Earth is a brown sphere filling itself to bursting with muscle and coil. Their creator points and touches, extending himself strenuously downward to the thick matrix of what he says he is bringing forth. As he penetrates, he remains colorless. But in their skin-colored earth, Behemoth and Leviathan are all color and red flame. These are a bioform, and its source is themselves. Having been made by a word, they have incorporated the word and translated it into silent color. Words are for the cold, limitless atmosphere. Wordless within the ownership of their silent light, Behemoth and Leviathan merely and wholly are.

At times, however, something from within earthlight points back upward to heaven. But the gesture cannot be retranslated into a scripture because it is still a part of earth's silence. It does not say; it only is. It is not an upward-aimed echo of God's downward-pointing motion. It does not attend upon words. And the wordless traces that it leaves across our perception map a free zone within the slave economy of the Book.