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WILLIAM BLAKE'S ... COMUS – A MASK

Carol Garrido >

WILLIAM BLAKE'S ... COMUS – A MASK

William Blake's Illustrations to Comus – A Mask by John Milton

It is rare that opportunity invites an artist to revisit a work. It is rarer still that the artist accepts that challenge. And times three is that rareness when that artist be William Blake. The commission was simple: to illustrate a two hundred year old mask, a chamber play by the celebrated John Milton, often considered the greatest of English poets, author of "Paradise Lost," prolific, honoured, revered. • Although commonly referred to as simply "Comus," the titular temptor, villain and vagabond of the tale, it was fully and properly titled "A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634: on Michaelmasse night, before the Right Honourable, John Earle of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackly, Lord President of Wales." Blake twice took up his pen and brush to illustrate this treatise on chastity. Both renderings are offered here in comparison and with a Sahaj commentary that strips it all back to the barest of truths. "Comus" is a tale of virtue, of protection, of deceit and redemption. But perhaps it was in the innocence and experience that Blake saw something more than just another courtly entertainment, the heavens stooping to save a single imperilled virtuous lady. • When a nymph sings the concluding lines, it could be Blake himself we hear, that passing ploughman in the wide-brimmed hat, whispering on the wind: • Mortals that would follow me, Love virtue, she alone is free, She can teach ye how to climb Higher than the Sphery chime; Or if Virtue feeble were, Heav’n itself would stoop to her. • And upon those spirited words rests the mighty vision of William Blake.

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8.5 x 11 in
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