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William Blake Comic Book: A Memorable Fancy Comic pg 12

Hi, fellows! Welcome back! That sure was a loooooong week, wasn't it? I thought it was! I kept busy doing Inktober stuff and also prepping for a convention that I will attend soon.

I got some things to do so it's a little bit short shrift, but I did want to say regarding this weeks' page: I first did this in 2002 or 2003 (geez time flies, it feels like a couple years ago but it's been 16 years), and when I was working on the layouts then, I didn't notice it, but the language Blake uses to describe what he's doing... it ties into what our species knew about astronomy in the close of the 18th century.

Following successful rocket launches in the 1940s, we were able to perceive, for the first time, the earth as a sphere, through photography. We knew it was a sphere, and had known for a long long time, but photography (and space exploration) gave our species a new way of communicating about the earth and its place in the cosmos.

I say this because the language that Blake uses seems to be from the vantage point of a person on earth. Like after he visits the sun, he says he "sunk from the glorious clime" (the "clime" in teh sense of "climate"). In the 21st century I was able to represent (with the aid of public domain photographs) that one would not "sink" when flying away from the sun but would simply fly away from the sun.

But to someone on earth, who only had the conception of the sun as a flat disk high up in the sky, he might say "sink from". Right? He didn't have the mental image that we have today, of celestial objects as spheres floating in space. He could only think of them as objects in the sky.

Also, when Blake wrote this, the planet Saturn had been observed by telescope in 1610, but had long been known as the outermost planet (it was visible without telescopes). Between the orbit of Saturn and the "fixed stars" there was a void.

Uranus and the two moons orbiting it had been discovered in 1781 by William Herschel, a German who lived in Britain, about 10 years before Blake had published The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. It was a big deal, of course, since Uranus was the first planet discovered since antiquity, and so I guess probably William Blake had heard about it. But then again, contemporaries suggested Blake might have been a weirdo.

And, also, the orbital elements of Uranus had been calculated by Laplace in 1783. So probably some astronomers knew that Uranus's orbit was more distant than Saturn. However, William Blake (unless he was up on the latest astronomical journals) would not have known that the outermost planet was Uranus, and not Saturn. Also the popular conception of Saturn as the outermost planet probably remained for a long, long while afterwards.

Okay, explaining that took longer than I thought! I hope it wasn't boring! Good bye for this week and thanks for visiting!

Comic transcript

You're reading a page from a comic book entitled William Blake, Man of Action!! It's based on William Blake's poem "A Memorable Fancy" from his larger work "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell". I'll be posting a page a week, and the first page of A Memorable Fancy is here. Alternately , you can check out the archive to jump to different pages. Please leave a comment if you like it, or don't!

And then William Blake, restraining the angel, says "Then I flung myself with her directly into the body of the sun."

He puts on some white robes, then flies away from the Sun, carrying a book. He says "Here I clothed myself in white, and taking in my hand Swedenborg’s volumes, sunk from the glorious clime."

We see that he and the angel are far beyond earth's orbit now, and are viewing Saturn from below the ecliptic. Blake says "and passed all the planets till we came to Saturn."

They rest for a bit, on one of the moons of Saturn (William Blake didn't know Saturn was a gas giant) and then William Blake leaps with the angel into the void between Saturn and the fixed stars.

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