William Blake, The Book of Job, and music

Today is William Blake’s birthday, and I was looking through some of his work – I have this book about Blake’s engravings illustrating the book of Job.

First of all, it was really nice to see Job’s wife – she is so beautiful and soothing to look at, as serene as Job himself, and while she turns quite old and exhausted, stricken with grief and despair as the catastrophe unfolds, she is there by his side, she suffers with him and she is blessed with him also. It’s interesting that in the old story Job has all his children taken away from him, and all his belongings, but not his wife. Perhaps it is the testament to such a unity between them, that cannot be broken, so does not even occur to Satan to challenge God to take away Job’s wife? I found that interesting, and also inspiring.

Now, what was really neat to see in the last illustration, was that once the Job’s family was returned to him together with all his wellbeing, they all are portrayed by Blake as doing music together. So there is a “before the disaster” and “after the disaster” family portrait, and in the first one all the musical instruments (except maybe one pipe and one lyre) are hanging in the tree, while in the the second one they all are being being played. Does it mean that they needed to have the experience of all that suffering and loss, and doubts, and misery, to really feel the fullness of joy afterwards, and to actually play the music? I don’t know, but it’s nice to ponder on these riddles created by Blake. The sun and the moon have exchanged their places, so I would assume the first picture is the morning (and how it was at the beginning), and the second one is the evening (how it all ended).

So, here are the “before” and “after” pictures in watercolour rather than engraving:

William Blake - Job and His Family.jpg
William Blake – Job and His Family” by William Blakehttp://www.themorgan.org/collections/works/blake/work.asp?id=onDisplay&page=16. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity Butts set.jpg
Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity Butts set” by William BlakeThe Morgan Library, extracted from Zoomify by User:GGreer. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

By the way, according to Blake, Job and his wife have three daughters and seven sons, those numbers will mean something to those who know :). I wonder what are those things that two of the daughters are holding instead of the musical instruments? The sheep and the dog are also neat :).

Explore and enjoy the rest of the illustrations, you can see all three versions (two of watercolours and one of engravings) of all the illustrations at the end of this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake%27s_Illustrations_of_the_Book_of_Job

Those of you who do sahaja yoga might especially like the fifth from the end illustration of Christ blessing Job and his wife.

And let William Blake be fondly remembered on his Birthday!

3 thoughts on “William Blake, The Book of Job, and music

  1. I suspect that the object being held by the younger children is a percussion instrument…a percussion instrument appears in picture 1 (timbrel) but not in picture 2, unless it is the mysterious object….the elaborate scroll was well established as an adornment to instruments in Blake’s day…women and children were often assigned percussion instruments, as they required less training and practice, both in his day and in biblical times…the variable width suggests it could be bent or struck to produce a tone, possibly one that could vary in pitch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Melvin! I didn’t even notice that tambourine in the tree :).

      When I posted this 2 years ago, someone commented on Facebook the following: “The two daughters are holding scrolls representing true inner knowledge as opposed to the heavy books (in the first picture) representing outward knowledge written by somebody else. It’s also noteworthy that the animals in the first picture are (spiritually) asleep whereas in the second picture there are awakened.”

      I actually just started to write another post, more on the Job himself, should be done by the end of the month, for Blake’s birthday. Unless something stops me from finishing it, I’ll make sure to post the link here as well.


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