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 Marriage 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.

Plate 2

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Plate 3

Blake states his thesis: "Without Contraries is no progression."  Good is passive reason; evil is active Energy.

Plate 4

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.

Plate 5



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.

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.

Plate 7

The Proverbs of Hell

These invert the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.

In other words, "You have to break some eggs to make an omlet."  We can't accomplish anything without hurting somebody.  Thus all progress is evil.

Plate 11

"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 truth.

Plate 12

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.

For the Enlightenment period, the highest human and divine attribute is reason.
For the Romantic period, the highest human and divine attribute is creation, the combination of will  and energy. (Will and energy were also high on the list of Romantic virtues.

Plate 21

Angels follow systematic reasoning, that is, they follow the principles of the Enlightenment.

Plates 23-24



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.