The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake -- Book Review

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."

This is a gem of a work I discovered while writing a paper for my class on British Romanticism. More a piece of art than a book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is beautiful, confusing, thought-provoking and a bit insane. My favorite part of the book is the Proverbs of Hell. Blake writes that he wanted to explain what hell is like so he brought back its wise sayings, because a people's proverbs tell you what is important to them. The list is a mishmash of contradictions. Some of the sayings could have come straight out of the biblical proverbs, while others fly in the face of Christian teachings.

Here are the first few (Read slowly, let each one sink in before you move on to the next):

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

Blake is railing against a religious establishment he doesn't agree with, in a world that has been turned inside out by the French Revolution. If you haven't read this since it was assigned to you in Lit class, pick it up again, but make sure to find an edition with Blake original illustrated pages. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how refreshingly beautiful Blake's writings and drawings are.

Buy William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books


hopeinbrazil said...

Sounds fascinating! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

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