Tag Archive: Energy

I chose this proverb because it is very incongruous with the Proverbs of Hell. If, as a footnote in our Norton Critical Edition explicates, the proverbs are “nuggets of infernal wisdom [that] counter the prudent ‘heavenly’ Proverbs of the Hebrew Bible,” then why would Blake include a proverb that sounds so like a biblical one? The idea of setting another before you is reminiscent of Biblical proverbs such as “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” and the commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself. Perhaps its place in the Proverbs of Hell suggests that Blake wants to attack Christians who he would view as self-serving or hellish rather than neighbourly. As a dissenter who was affected by Anglican and state persecution, Blake might want to shock these readers out of their complacency by putting a heavenly commandment in the mouths of devils.

However, Blake is also drawing attention to the fact that setting others before you is an energetic act. It is also a sublime act, a term which in the Romantic context takes on a particularly complicated meaning. This is the diabolical element of this proverb in the context of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell because energy is associated with the devil and evil. For the Romantics, the sublime was associated with powerful experiences of awe, terror and danger. For example, Burke wrote that the effect of the sublime could place the soul in a state “in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror.” The proverb can therefore imply that setting others before you has to be done against a powerful compulsion not to do so. It stresses that you have to be powerful and energetic in order to be self-sacrificing. In other words, it is impossible to be good if you are passive.

In conclusion, this proverb illustrates a harmonious marriage of Heaven and Hell because it conveys a highly moral idea through Blake’s constructed logic of Hell. For this reason, I am inclined to view this proverb as sincerely meant even though it is designated as a proverb of Hell.


Blake and The Moravians

Is it me or does the title of this post sound like a sitcom? 

Blake seems to express his opinion of the Moravian church (and seemingly the whole of Christianity) in the scene where he reveals to the angel ‘his lot.’ Blake takes the angel into the pit that appears in the bible and reveals very Moravian imagery–such that he is particularly familiar with due to his Moravian upbringing from his mother. He depicts the grotesque and erotic imagery of bodies being devoured, engulfed, kissed, gross stuff. However, Blake and the angel are soon overwhelmed by the smell of the corpses and must leave: “the stench terribly annoyd us both.” 

Here I feel Blake expresses his disinterest with the Moravian church–highly associated with Christ’s body and his blood. The sacramental imagery displayed ties heavily into Moravian teachings, however the rotting corpse of the church becomes too overwhelming. It seems that Blake believes that Christ’s body–that which the Moravians wish to dwell in–is rotting (as are other Christian teachings exemplified by their presence in the mill and Blake’s comparison of them to Analytics). The angel is shocked at the imagery that Blake reveals to him and feels that he is uttering blasphemies as Blake demonstrates through the image of the skeleton that his religion is built upon Reason–seemingly blending with the teachings of the Devil: “Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.” Blake replies to the Angels statements that “We impose on one another” revealing that they are, in a sense, contraries. 

Blake feels that it is a waste to converse with an angel as they only follow “analytics”–but who’s side is Blake actually on? Blake sees the angel consumed in flames and emerges in the form of a devil–as the angel has seen the truth and embraces the contrary–that virtue is energy. Blake seems to side with both actually (seriously?). Although he sees the church of the Moravians as a rotting corpse (gross stuff), he seems to revel in the Energy of it, the virtue and desire. He does not fully side with the devil either, but merely listens to his teachings and takes from them what he will. He does not wish to be over imposed on by either followers.

It is demonstrated in one of the final scenes of the Marriage that he and the Angel “who is now become a Devil, is [his] particular friend: [they] often read the Bible together in its infernal or diabolical sense” but they also have “The Bible of Hell”–its contrary. Blake seems to be an ‘extreme average’ (that’s like a baby contrary–rather the offspring of two contraries)–he is the product of two extreme teachings: those of Heaven and those of Hell–continually oscillating between the two, gleaning from both sides the fruits which he deems ‘fruitful.’