Creating Time: Chronos and Kairos in William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion

Todd Dearing

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper examines the presence of time in William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (c. 1804-1820). I approach this examination by dividing time into two modes: the quantitative, sequential measure of time, from the Ancient Greek, chronos (χρόνος); and the qualitative, critical moment of time, kairos (καιρός). With reference to recent works on Blake and time, namely Andrew M. Cooper’s William Blake and the Productions of Time (2016) and Peter Otto’s Constructive Vision and Visionary Deconstruction: Los, Eternity, and the Productions of Time in the Later Poetry of William Blake (1991), I argue that both chronos and kairos are present in Jerusalem, and their relationship plays a crucial role in unfolding and resolving the narrative of this Romantic epic poem.
This division of time into the measurable and immeasurable is a persistent theme in Blake’s writing, being directly indicated in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, where he writes on plate 7 that “[t]he hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.” This distinction is made explicit not only in Blake but in Romantic thought more broadly, through the interaction and contest between reason and the imagination, reflecting a larger tension between the Enlightenment and the rising tide of Romanticism from the late 18th century.
A return to Eternity becomes the goal that drives the entire plot of Jerusalem, yet paradoxically, it is the temporal world that fuels ambition for this goal. This paradoxical relationship between time and eternity raises the question: how is it, according to Blake, again in The Marriage plate 7, that “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”? I explore this question in relation to the narrative of Jerusalem, revealing Blake’s thoughts on the human relationship to time and our romantic yearning for eternity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
EventRomanticism and Time: Conference of the French Society for the Study of English Romanticism (SERA) - Université de Lille, Little, France
Duration: 8 Nov 201810 Nov 2018


ConferenceRomanticism and Time
Internet address


  • Romanticism
  • Time
  • Wiliam Blake
  • Literature


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