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“The Heart Pathos”

Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was a religious reformer better known for as a bishop of the Moravian church. He along with other Moravian followers believed in the the importance of our five senses, and the idea that attaining a relationship with God lies not in following order and practices, but through more of a spiritual experience, body and soul can we truly get closer to god. Marsha Keith Schuchard’s article focuses on the potential Moravian beliefs Blake may have had by close reading some of his work. Schuchard describes that “…pious and self-righteous standards of behavior, which led to hypocrisy and joylessness, were not proper expressions of Christian worship” according to Moravian beliefs (Schuchard, 85). She further explains that Moravians instead beileved in the concept of Herzensreligion (religion of the heart) in order to help us “sensate Jesus’s love and to identify with his wounds…” (86).

From what we already know of Blake, he believed that in order to achieve the true poetic genius, we must stray from Urizen, which thus leads us closer to Los. By looking at Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, we can observe certain passages which not only emphasize the idea of Urizen and Los, but portray Blake as a Moravian believer. Specifically in the passage where he tells us of a conversation he has with the prophet Isaiah, he says “Isaiah answer’d “I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover’d the infinite in everything…” (Blake, 74). The idea of the senses is emphasized here, by Isaiah denying that God exists in a solid, bodily form, which most people make him out to be. We can see this by the many religious depictions of God himself through art such as paintings, sculptures, etc. Blake here illuminates the idea that God exists in an “infinite” form. In order to truly be one with God or the “infinite”, we must be spiritually connected to our five senses. By embracing what we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell, we will not only discover God’s true form, but we would finally have achieved Los in which Blake highly stresses us to reach . 

Although there are other passages within The Marriage of Heaven and Hell which leads us to believe Blake was a Moravian believer, this specific passage truly captures that essence because Blake portrays a biblical prophet as his own infernal opposite.

-Kimberly Martinez-Melchor

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For next Wednesday (2/21), students will write a post that cites the scholarly article linked below to support a specific interpretation of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

http://bq.blakearchive.org/40.3.schuchard

Provide a close reading of ONE specific passage from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that, in your view, displays Moravian images, themes, and ideas.  Please cite the article using the MLA citation guide (you can access the guide electronically under the “Children of Los” tab in the course blog).  Please categorize your post under “Christ and the Body” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.

Learning objectives:

  1. To further contextualize Blake’s Christianity and art.
  2. To understand and cite professional scholarly sources.

 

 

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion. (1)
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. (2)
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. (3)
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. (4)

In the very first line of this poem are metaphors that are quite cunning. As one can see, Blake did not hold back when it came to calling out the hypocrisy of which the state and church contained. Using irony, he shows the backward system of both Law and Religion -law is supposed to step in to prevent the further demise of deviant behavior so as to prevent the further imprisonment of the members of society; while religion is supposed to intervene and prevent the moral decline of its people. Instead, there is a greed filled profit to be made in both circumstances. In the following three lines he does a few things: he mentions emotion; he uses animal symbols; and he uses several key representation of God. Line 2’s Peacock symbol represents immortality -thus saying God’s glory is eternal. Line 3’s Goat represents bountifulness, indicating God will always provide. And, finally, Line 4’s Lion, represents that absolute leadership. One has to question why he would place these lines under the very first one, where he is revealing the greed that exists. The dichotomy in that was probably his goal. We see this throughout the rest of the poem.

 

 

The nakedness of woman is the work of God. (5)
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. (6)
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. (8)

In line 5, “the nakedness of the woman” indicates the actual human condition; but it is interesting, and should be noted that Blake chose to use the woman gender to represent such work. Perhaps he wanted to indicate that women are, in fact, the actual creators/carriers of other humans, and in addition, should not be demonized with regard to their connection to Eve. Again, just like line 1, line 5 stands out from lines 6, 7, and 8 where Blake speaks through emotional and physical attributes, and uses irony: “Excess of sorrow laughs/excess of joy weeps.” The three lines that follow imply the truth: that God does see all that occurs in the world; His power is too intense for others to want to recognize; therefore, they hide behind their lies.

 

The fox condemns the trap, not himself. (9)
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. (10)
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. (11)
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. (12)

Because Foxes are known for being clever, line 9 could represent the marginalized group of people whom are being set up to fail amongst society. Lines 10 shows a before and after affect: first there is joy, later there is sorry that follows, as with most things in life. Lines 11, and 12 creates the idea that we should live our lives the way that we want, in order to create harmony.

 

The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagin’d.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
One thought, fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

 

The line that sums up the point of Blake’s message is that when he says: “Always be ready to speak your mind.” Blake’s use of nature and animals is a device where he wanted to use the most organic constructs to convey his message about truth.  -Marcy Martinez

 

 

 

“As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on,    
      so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.” (54-55)   

Caterpillar-PNG-Transparent-Image egg-clipart-leaf-2


Just when I thought Blake could not get any more confusing, I read this. First, caterpillars are in a stage of pre-reproduction and therefore cannot lay eggs. There is something sick and sinister about presenting a prepubescent being as child-bearing adult. Then, the diction in association with the priest is also odd. Priests are recognized as someone who bestow blessings on others, not curses. Maybe I didn’t expect things to become so twisted even with the knowledge that hell is in the title of the poem.

What is even more interesting are the parallels that can be drawn in this proverb. One example is the parallel between the caterpillar and the priest. If the priest is compared to a caterpillar, the priest is then in a condition where they cannot lay anything, or we could say transfer knowledge. Had it been a butterfly and not a caterpillar, the priest would then have the authority to teach. If the butterfly is one step above the caterpillar, then what is one step above the priest? Some might say it is God. Blake chose the caterpillar because no priest can ever be at the same level as God. If not even priests can be compared to God, then based on the hierarchical system, no one else can, too. This might make us question whether there is a purpose for religion at all.

Another thing to note is that the priest is not only compared to just any caterpillar, but a female caterpillar. There is a possibility that Blake made this decision because it was the easiest way to make this analogy work. On the other hand, he is raising the question on whether God is a man or a woman, or whether God even has a gender.

Joy in this context can be referred to children in reference to “Infant Joy” from Songs of Innocence. The parallel to joys here are leaves. Children are like leaves, attached to a branch, untouched except by the inhabitants of the tree. Like how one chooses the prettiest flower from the bush to pluck, the caterpillar and the priest chooses the purest child to soil and the sinister element is brought forward again. It appears as a constant battle between good and evil where evil prevails each time.

-Van Vang

The sarcastic tone and presentation, beginning with Marilyn Manson’s description of being a generous lover, in his reading of William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell are complementary and yet sardonic pieces. Editorial footnotes in Blake’s Poetry and Designs indicate that the plate title images are depicting the conversion of an angel, into the so-called devil. Repetitive instances of the first women, being held by the cosmos or surrounded by long, tree branches are understood by Blake’s pugnacity found in his satirical interpretations of Swedenborg, who introduces the Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell with a hybrid statement on love, religion, and ethics, “At the end of his [the Lord’s] prophecies concerning it’s successive states in regard to love and faith, he says thus…” (Swedenborg 1). Blake illustrates romance, anthropomorphizes, and then jokes, about, “Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell,” (Blake 69) for elevating his emotive response to Swedenborg, and goes so far as to personify him as an angel for ultimately opposing conventional reasoning, wisdom, and art with a dialectical argumentation accessible through somewhat-offensive cartoons of women, described by Blake with, “no progression […] attraction and repulsion […] are necessary,” (Blake 69). Blake’s affronts to philosophical and scientific certainty are evident not only through aforementioned religious struggle aestheticized, but also in the choice of language which simultaneously negates in his dismissive, negative connotations which abstract “hate,” to see “the return of Adam into Paradise,” while employing the language of greats such as Swedenborg.

The Marilyn Manson presentation seemed sarcastic, but also politically correct and sensitive to current political issues which challenge Blakian, revolutionary ideals. I laughed when he said that the cut-worm “forgives” the plough, given his renown as a pop-artist whose performances are regularly shocking to audiences across the world, discussing field labor metaphors found in the poetry in a senior thesis course, comes across as abstruse.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

William Blake’s 8th proverb of Hell, in which he explores the acquisition of wisdom through an authority figure uses contrasting animal symbols of wisdom and meekness to show how information is controlled by those in power and backed by a false religious ideology. Although speaking in the voice of Satan, Blake brings up provoking and valid points about how those in power are deplorable and reaffirm their power in religion. In the beginning of the proverb, Blake uses animals as symbols of vices and equates them with being “of God”. This paradox suggests that God/religion has enabled the vice, which is reaffirmed in the first line “Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion” (line 21). These vices are then exalted in the next lines, as they “are too great for the eye of man” (line 29). Blake becomes somewhat allegorical here, as the peacock stands in for those that are flashy, the goat stands in for those that are have avarice, and the lion stands in for those that have wrath. It is worthwhile to mention that all of these types of people are in positions of power and use Religion to back them up. Their counterparts, the vermin amongst the animals: the rat, the mouse, the fox, and rabbet are meant to symbolize those that are considered to be worthless but are actually the fosters of “the roots” (line 33). In light of Blake’s history as an engraver, craftsman, and mechanic, he would have been a rat amongst lions who claimed all the fame and righteousness, and yet shunned Blake and his progressive thought. This is perhaps made stark by the concluding lines, “Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you” (37), the base man being the peacock, goat, and lion, or those in power. Blake’s final message of egalitarianism and progressive thought is echoed again in another animal metaphor: “the eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow” (line 39), meaning that one loses time when they submit to those in power. This ties back to the genre of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” because it suggests that Heaven and Hell are not so different and that we may be living under the false pretense that one is the other. While conventional thought might appear to be of God, it could in reality be of the Devil.

 

-Sara Nuila-Chae

Narration or Proverb?

The Proverbs of Hell are presented as cultural artifacts brought back from a trip to the pit. The final line blurs the line between the genre of cultural artifact and the genre of belief.

The speaker of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a rather confusing one. The narrator questions the Bible, Paradise Lost, and many, many more works and concepts. Most curiously, the narrator claims that they traveled to Hell and was delighted by what they saw. They found wisdom in the pit, and sought to bring this wisdom back . The final proverb, numbered line 70 in Blake’s Poetry and Designs, complicates the relationship of what the speaker believes and what the damned and demons believe. To this end, the final question “Enough! or Too much” serves to show the blurring of a writer’s belief and the statements they have posed.

“Enough! or Too much” is the only proverb that is offset, center justified in contrast with the left justification of each other line. It is meant to be viewed as its own line, separate and distinct among the rest of the proverbs. This leads to many interpretations, but I will be discussing only two.

The first interpretation is that these are the words of the narrator. The narrator looks at “infernal wisdom,” which is mostly dark, questions assumptions, and are otherwise plagued with ideas that force a reader to question the standards of the world. The narrator, with the exclamation point, shouts out “Enough!” for their mind cannot handle more infernal wisdom, or does not want to bring more of this infernal wisdom into the living world. The narrator then questions whether they have overshared. Perhaps this was too much subversion, perhaps just the right amount. This reflects another proverb “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” This confusion as to what is excess is in the mind of the narrator.

The second interpretation of this line is that this is the final proverb, the final cultural artifact brought back from the pit. This would make sense, because as mentioned above, the idea of excess is one that is mentioned in at least one other proverb, and the final line reads as a Proverb would.

Thus, the question becomes raised: which of these proverbs are the work of the narrator, and which are brought back to Earth from Hell? Moreover, these are all from the pen of Blake himself, whether the story is framed as a return from Hell or not. Then, it can be said the framing device that these wisdoms are brought back from Hell is a form of deflection, a layer of removal between author and text. If the reader is confused as to whether a line is proverb or narrator, the reader is then forced to consider the possibility that these works are the heartfelt beliefs of the Author, and not merely the corrupted beliefs of a fictional narrator who had spoken to the denizens of Hell.

 

Ross Koppel

Natural Genius

Blake creates the idea that experience is not something anybody can gain with just age, that someone who is younger not just in life, but skill could outdo an older, more “experienced” person’s Genius. Blake mentions “The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom; no clock can measure.” Folly is foolishness; to lack common sense, and according to Blake, it can be measured by a clock. Though Genius could also be considered wisdom and that it cannot be measured because of how once enough people admire your work, it would end up going down in history.

According to Blake’s proverbs, foolishness can be measured by time, which in a sense can mean that there is an end to it. That even though people may remember a certain foolish event, it will never become memorable enough to last throughout time. Taking into consideration Blake’s craftsmen skills and his skills as a writer, he intends this proverb to imply how it depends on one’s natural Genius to make their work immeasurable by time, and to not copy other people’s Genius because that is one’s “folly.”

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

William Blake touches upon the necessity to contraries working together to build an understanding to a whole idea. He uses the proverb of “Opposition is True Friendship” as a way to teach readers through failure that there is a way to harness contraries to understand them. He feels that it is necessary that people understand both sides to an argument as just having one side has someone open to criticism. It falsifies an argument as there is not enough substance to be able to keep the argument afloat if there is no way to have this openness. He states in his proverb “Swedenborg has not written one new truth: Now hear another: he has written all the old falshoods” (79). “Truths” are not statements that are established without “falshoods” as before they become true there will always be opposition to break them down. It is during this process that one must continue on to deepen their understanding of these topics as falseness actually can lead to truth it is just a step in furthering knowledge, he just warns against staying within a confinement of being wrong. He continues saying “Swedenborg’s writings are a recapitulation of all superficial opinions, and an analysis of the more sublime, but no further” (79). In order to be free from “recapitulations” and have opinions that are more than “superficial” statements there must be greater effort in delving into the understanding of a bigger picture. It is this that will help to scratch the surface of the argument.  Thus, Swedenborg is being used as a cautionary tale of the human mind and their necessity to have depth-ness to their thoughts. As the superficial is something that has already been stated it is important to view the bigger picture to have more concentrated understandings of the human psyche.

-Alexis Blanco