Blake’s Proverbs of Hell are interesting in that their form is not all that different from those proverbs present in the Bible.  Consider passages like “Do not accuse a man for no reason–when he has done you no harm. ” (Proverbs 3:30) compared to Blake’s “He who has suffered you to impose on him knows you.”  Obviously the message in both of these passages is different, but the voice used is similar.  In both cases the speaker takes on the voice of a disembodied advice giver.  None of the advice is related to specific experiences, but is rather relayed through some divine authority.  The reader is meant to understand in both books that the advice will lead to a happier life, though in both cases no piece of advice is ever fully explained.

Herein lies the important point present in Blake’s work.  In the book of proverbs, the only time advice is explained, it is given some divine authority.  For example, in chapter 3, “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”  The only thing that separates the proverbs of hell from those of heaven is this divine authority.  Blake’s advice is similar in character to that of the Bible, but is lacking any appeals to the lord’s approval.  Seeing this connection, the reader is compelled to reexamine the advice in proverbs, considering whether any of it would be taken seriously if it was not approved by God.

 

Advertisements