WILLIAM BLAKE’S INFLUENCE ON FRAGMENTS OF A BROKEN LAND: VALARL UNDEAD
“… The Eternal Man is seal’d, never to be deliver’d.
I roll my floods over his body, my billows & waves pass over him,
The sea encompasses him & monsters of the deep are his companions.
Dreamer of furious oceans, cold sleeper of weeds & shells,
Thy Eternal form shall never renew, my uncertain prevails against thee.”
William Blake, Vala, or the Four Zoas, 4.132-136
My postgraduate research study and resulting thesis was titled: “The Terrible Ones: Blake’s Monsters and the Imagery of Objective Form”. I spent several years immersed in mystic artist and poet William Blake’s thought and imagery — my sympathy for his ideas both led me to study his work in the first place and in turn was fostered by the research.
When I came to write Fragments of a Broken Land, much that is Blakean entered into my imagining of the fantasy world I created. Blake’s beliefs in the essentially subjective nature of the world — indeed his belief that the objective world arose from a spiritual fall into a material illusion — gave a dynamic to my creative approach to fantasy. It’s not the whole of it, but it is a part. Many of my stories explore the spiritual nexus between the objective and the subjective worlds, and this theme plays a significant part in Fragments, too. The levels of reality depicted, the nature of magic, the way in which emotional and moral states become metaphysical realities are elements of an ongoing [unending?] exploration into the nature of perception — and a blurring of the dichotomy between Object and Subject.
More directly, the metaphysical background I created for Fragments reflects Blake’s mythological system itself. In his massive prophecies (and over the course of his life), he created a pantheon of characters, both gods and monsters, which represent aspects of human experience. His imagery is potent and complex, but in essence it is this: Man is fallen from unity into division, his spiritual ‘aspects’ warring with each other and in the process determining the nature of the material world. The Eternal Man, Albion, falls because he comes to believe that he must build an objective world around himself in order to be safe. His gigantic body lies beneath the world as we know it, forming its template, but will one day arise, rejoined with his various alienated aspects into a dynamic unity. This will happen (and in a way continually happens) whenever human perception widens and recognises that the true nature of reality is subjective and that the objective, or Death, world can hold no power over us.
That was the background to many aspects of Fragments. Pretentious, I know. But what the hell!