The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
As with Songs of Innocence and Exlperience, Blake combined
poetry with art in the production of this book. He etched into copper
sheets the text and images of each plate, ran off the copies, and hand
painted each page.
In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake initially reverses
the conventional polarities to value evil over good:
By the end of the poem, he arrives at a different position. In the
previous section, we saw that for Blake innocence and experience came from
one source and must converge to be complete. Likewise in The
of Heaven and Hell, conventional notions of heaven and hell create
a false division between principles that must be married to be one complete
whole: the union of the contrarities, of desire and restraint, energy and
reason, the promptings of Hell and the denials of Heaven.
Evil=the body, desire, energy, action, abundance, freedom
Good=the soul, reason, restraint, passivity, prohibition
Rintrah = Elijah, the angry prophet. His roaring certainly seems
red clay = Adam. "The adam" in Hebrew literally means red clay,
hence the saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust returnest."
"left the paths of ease, / To walk in perilous paths" = Christianity
was perverted from its original power to become an institutional religion.
Now= the time of the French Revolution and the overturning of the old
Blake states his thesis: "Without Contraries is no progression."
Good is passive reason; evil is active Energy.
The voice of the devil. For many Romantics, freedom is to be found
in defying the rules and conventions that others have laid down.
This freedom is to be found in saying "No" to authority. The American
and French Revolutions, though products of the Enlightenment, helped inspire
many individual declarations of independence among the Romantics.
And who better represents the NO
to authority than Satan. Thus Blake,
like many others, sees Satan as something of a role model.
Those who restrain desire don't have very strong desires. Desire
should rule over passion, reversing the polarity of reason over passion
that had existed from the earliest Greek philosophers through the Enlightenment.
"Milton . . . was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing
With this new outlook, Blake reads old works in different ways. In
an era when reason was supposed to govern passion, when the order of life,
the universe, and everything depended on staying in one's place in the
great chain of being, Satan was the villain of Paradise Lost and
God the hero. But now, when passion should rule reason and people
declared their independence, Satan appears to be the hero.
The Proverbs of Hell
These invert the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
In other words, "You have to break some eggs to make an omlet." We
can't accomplish anything without hurting somebody. Thus all progress
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
"Add deities reside in the human breast."
As I mentioned above, for many Romantics, the religions they experimented
with were valuable not for their objective reality but for their subjective
"Does a firm perswasion
that a thing is so, make it so?"
Romantic projection is a Romantic notion.
When a movie projects on the otherwise blank screen, it creates a reality
from within itself. The romantic believes that the vision he has
in himself can be projected onto the world and made into reality.
He replied: "All poets believe
that it does, & in ages of imagination this firm perswasion removed
mountains; but many are not capable of a firm perswasion of any thing."
For the Enlightenment period, the highest human and divine attribute
For the Romantic period, the highest human and divine attribute is
the combination of will and energy.
(Will and energy were also high on the list of Romantic virtues.
Angels follow systematic reasoning, that is, they follow the principles
of the Enlightenment.
Jesus (as opposed to the later church) acted by his own impulses rather
than following the rules of others.
"One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression."
We can't expect the lion and the ox to follow the same rules.
This is an important precept of the Romantic movement. In response
to Napolean's Empire and his Napoleanic Code that was enforced from Germany
to Louisiana, the movement of Romantic nationalism emerged. Germans,
for instance, wanted their own nation and legal system.