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The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

By William Blake

As I analyze the poem, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” written by William Blake, I instantly know for sure that “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.[1]  This poem was written in 1792 and, if the reader was unaware of the year in which this poem was written, one would mistakenly assume Blake was alive and well and a practicing Theologian. He is addressing modern-day issues and contradictions of the heart, soul and mind.  These are real, solid problems people cannot solve on their own.  They deal with these issues in their personal lives today. 

I believe Blake was a religious man and he truly loved God. Influenced by the American and French revolution and the restrictions of the Anglican Church, he became an angry, anti-religious man and loved God even more so. He wanted to prove through his writings that what we have been taught for eons, are untruths and misconceptions of what God intended when he created us.  Through his writings, Blake protected God’s creations by alerting the reader of Bibles inaccuracies or lies.  He begins by pointing out the contradictions in the Bible.  In the Plate, “The Voice of the Devil” (really an Angel), he states, “All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following errors, 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies”. In other words, if man follows his sensuality, he will be condemned forever.  However, in the plate, “proverbs of hell”, he reminds you, “the nakedness of woman is the work of God. Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. Brothels are built with bricks of religion.”  God gave us sensuality, but yet religion condemns it.  He begins to explain how organized religion began and somehow God’s interpretations were misinterpreted. “Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav’d the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood; And at length they pronounc’d that the Gods had order’d such things.  Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.”   Men forgot that all inner beauty lies in our hearts.

  He continues to inform us that all Bibles are written by man. In a ‘Memorable Fancy’ he states, “I was in a printing-house in Hell & saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.”  He asked the Prophet Isaiah,  “How they dared so roundly to assert that God spake to them; and whether they did not think at the time, that they would be misunderstood, & so be the cause of imposition.”

Blake outlines the contradictions and emphasizes that our senses are indeed gifts from God.  He states, “Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason. Energy is Eternal delight.” Blake continues to identify and expose our hidden desires. In the Plate, “Proverbs of Hell”, Blake compares prudence to incapacity, “Prudence is a rich old ugly maid courted by incapacity.” An old maid is incapable of love and uncomfortable with all things sensual.  He warns that our unfulfilled emotions are diseases, such as our “inactions breeds pestilence” and “shame is pride’s cloak”. Do not restrain your desires, if you do, “theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling.” If you give up on your desires, you will be pinned down forever and confined to inactions. 

Furthermore, he tries to persuade the reader to always be yourself, “The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow”.  Why would you waste your time being someone else?   “Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.” Accept the gifts from God, “as the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers.”  He addresses issues such as wisdom, the use of our land, harvesting smartly, the busy bee, wasting time, practice makes perfect, don’t be someone else, be yourself, what have you been missing in life, ‘you never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough’, fresh water, old wine, work plows not prayers, the human body is God’s work, don’t destroy sensuality.”          

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” However, this picture is often cloudy to many and then begins our contradictions of what we were taught of the meaning of the forces of good and evil.  We proceed with our actions of reason and later question the inactions of our hidden desires. We are torn and in essence, we prove Blake correctly when he states, “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.  That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies”. But Blake states that “Without contraries, there is no progression.”  Energy, love and hate are all necessary for human existence. “Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse not from rules.”

When Blake asks the prophets, “does a firm persuasion that a thing is so make it so?”  The prophets 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”. I have to agree with the prophets only because most men are weak in independent thinking. “For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” “Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth.” The Bible was written by man and people perceive the Bible as the truth.  In the printing house of hell, the most dangerous chamber was the sixth which housed the books and libraries.  “But the chains are the cunning of weak and tame minds which have power to resist energy, according to the proverb, the weak in courage is strong in cunning.”  I do believe that “the man who never alters his opinion is like standing water and breeds reptiles of the mind.” Every person has the right to change his opinion and to question what is set forth before him. Blake answered the angel in “A Memorable Fancy” ‘we impose on one another, and it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only analytics’.  “Opposition is true friendship.”

Persuasive, rebellious and centuries ahead of his time, defiant Blake proved that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”[2] He honors the name of God by challenging our beliefs and exposing us to opposition. “The worship of God is:  Honoring his gifts in other men, each according to his genius, and loving the greatest men best:  those who envy or calumniate great men hate God, for there is no other God.”  ‘For everything that lives is Holy.”


[1] Alphonse Karr, French Origin Proverb

[2] Coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy

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