These are plates 9 & 10 from William Blake’s little book FOR THE SEXES: The Gates of Paradise. I grabbed them off of the wonderful site The Blake Archive. One way to read them is as adjacent comic book panels: ‘this happens and then this happens. Another is to read them as slightly different views on the same thing, as in a stereoscope. Another possibility is that they are completely unrelated.
Stereoscope juxtaposing Plate XI from William Blake’s ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BOOK OF JOB (1826) and Panel 2, page 74 from Lynda Barry’s THE FREDDIE STORIES (1999). Separated by 173 years, sharing a similar vision. I’m sure Lynda Barry has seen this image of Blake’s. Does that make her’s a copy of his? Not necessarily. Blake himself found the poses and compositions for his divine visions in reproductions of Renaissance Masterworks.
I find this likeness wonderful and marvelous. I have notes for an essay I’d like to put up as a permanent page here. For now, though, I will suggest the direction the essay would take with a quote from a book I’ve already mentioned here:
“Medieval visionary allegory offers its readers participation in a process of psychic redemption closely resembling, though wider in scope than, modern psychotherapy …
“the basic content and structural elements of such allegory consist largely of imagery derived from and constituting progressive developments of the imagery of classical and pre-classical religion and myth, as they are manifested in literature and art …
“The major poets of medieval visionary allegory regard themselves as part of a cumulative tradition, in which each allegorist recapitulates, refines and develops the thought and imagery of his [sic] predecessors, exploring new dimensions of traditional topics, and, most important, attempting to integrate earlier thought and imagery pertaining to the topic into a coherent whole …
“Allegory as a serious genre waned in the fifteenth century owing to the growing inability of allegorical poets to continue to achieve imaginative comprehension of the symbolical and mythical elements of the form. By the seventeenth century, a more strictly analytic approach to the phenomenal world made allegorizing seem intellectually trivial … ”
(from Propositions 1, 2, 8 & 9 from the introduction to Paul Piehler’s THE VISIONARY LANDSCAPE (pps 19-20)
And a last thought:
Is 173 years a long time? A bit too long, I guess, for any one of us to endure. Whatever the number of years, Blake seems irrevocably long ago, from the age of revolution, the mythical time of our era’s origin. His words, images and ideas shine through history like a dead star. He has, it seems, joined history – that flat offensive significance of human life which the living are barred from entering.
Meanwhile, Lynda Barry has such a knack for the voices of adolescence and childhood she seems to resurrect a reader’s own past. The memories she stirs live again.
That makes THE FREDDIE STORIES all the more a marvel: in it Freddie undergoes a “journey to the underworld” which employs imagery familiar from Dante’s journey, even Virgil’s journey. But she builds Freddie’s journey of “ psychic redemption” out of such recognizable, contemporary stuff that she invites us to our own inside of a visionary landscape that has floated along with people for thousands of years.