When first reading the Proverbs of Hell, I read them as Hell’s version of the “Ten Commandments” simply from the title of the piece itself. However, after closely reading the piece, I came to the realization that it served more as a “list of truths and revelations”. Blake does not take a side in regards to these proverbs being completely true, rather he takes what he learned from “walking the fires of hell” and lays his knowledge out on the table for us to make what we wish out of it. In other words, Blake leaves the decision of the validity of these proverbs to be decided by us.

One of the proverbs that really stood out to me was specifically on lines 45-46 where he says “The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow” (Blake, 72). This proverb stood out to me because Blake again incorporates the symbol of the eagle, but this time compares it to a crow rather than an owl as we have observed in The Songs of Innocence. An eagle is typically seen as the most majestic of all bird species, in addition the symbol of the eagle is associated with “freedom” or self-discovery.  In contrast, a crow is a black and ugly creature, which is typically associated with death. A majestic eagle would surely waste it’s time learning from a bird that is below his class.

I related this idea of “freedom” and “death” through the symbol of the birds, back to the this question of what is good versus what is evil. We as a society have lived our lives based on a set of rules and guidelines in order to live a “good” life. If we stray from that path, we must repent for the “sins” we have committed. BUT, I came to realize that it has evolved into something more than just what’s good and whats bad, it has been morphed into a selfish dictatorship from a higher power (in Blake’s time, the corrupted Church). We ultimately have the power to decide whether we will stray from these rules and guidelines, stray from the crow, and self discover the truth for ourselves and become the divine Eagle.

In conclusion, Neither black nor white, good nor evil, William Blake’s TRUE poetic genius allows us to erase these boundaries that separate one from the other, and see aspects of the world around us in a new light.

-Kimberly Martinez-Melchor