The “Proverbs of Hell” section of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell offers yet another glimpse into Blake’s complex system of contraries. As we have seen in “All Religions are One”, “There is No Natural Religion”, and the Songs of Innocence and Experience, these contraries can lead the meticulous reader down a wormhole of contradictions. Such as is this case with The Marriage, where one may find difficult the challenge of pinpointing exactly where Blake and his purported Christianity stand in all the madness. In this fascinating piece, angels are put in their place by demons and devils preach an inverted doctrine, all while Blake maintains the voice of those supernatural antagonists. Interestingly, Blake offers no discerning narrator who can lead the reader to the proper moral in spite of the ghoulish orator. We are left only with the words of the demon and the responsibility to take seriously or not his conclusions falls to us.

Take for example this proverb: “Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.” We know that Blake has his issues with organized religion. Recall that in our explication of “And did those feet in ancient time,” we revealed the anti-cermony, anti-dogma, anti-Anglican undertones that made its performance in the royal wedding ever so ironic. In this proverb, we see those same sentiments, but coming from Hell. Are we to believe Blake dabbled in the occult and truly felt that the voices from Hell could adequately guide mortals towards a more happy and peaceable existence? How dense are you? There is obviously a more nuanced answer, and again I must return to the madness to find it. Thoughts?

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