Tag Archive: evil


Milton needs to “go down to self annihilation and eternal death” because he is the “Poetic Genius” who protects “Divine Humanity” (The Prophetic Books of William Blake). This idea of being the protector of the people correlates with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ died in order to save humanity from Judgement. In William Blake’s Milton, Milton goes on to say “When will the Resurrection come to deliver the sleeping body / From corruptability / Tarry no longer for my soul lies at the gates of Death. / I will arise and look forth the morning of the grave” (The Prophetic of William Blake). Milton knows that humanity is easily capable of being corrupted. Many outside factors lie when influencing people’s behavior; essentially, behavior that may not seem “correct” through the eyes of the Poetic Genius. In order to protect and prevent humanity from any further fraudulent conduct, he must sacrifice himself – just like Jesus Christ. Yet, while his sacrifice may prevent a corruptible society, his actions ultimately go against Catholicism beliefs and also demonstrate corruption itself. By taking his life, under Catholicism beliefs, Milton’s dammed for all eternity. He goes on to support this notion by referring to himself as Satan through his selfhood. So can the Poetic Genius – who now appears to be messing with the reader through the use of good and evil – save humanity when he himself is as easily corruptible as humanity?

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Everybody has choices.

William Blake mentions a diverse set of topics throughout his writing. Much of his writing we’ve read thus far consists of innocence, womanhood, and the distinction between “good” and “evil.” This religious theme and connotations of good and evil can be explicitly seen in Blake’s “A Memorable Fancy.” For instance, the speaker goes on to say, “An Angel came to me and said: ‘O pitiable, foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! Consider the hot, burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all Eternity, to which thou art going in such career’” (Blake, 132). In this dialogue, the reader is presented with the image of an Angel. This angelical figure – which often represents salvation and the preservation of innocence – goes on to tell the individual that his actions, behavior, and choices he / she has made in life are leading him / her not to heaven, but to a “hot burning dungeon.” In other words, the decisions people make throughout their lifetime will have consequences in their after-life. The Angel serves as a form of interventionist, where it makes sure the decisions people make in life are the right or “good” ones.

This idea can tie back into Thomas Pain and Moravian view where both entail this idea of believing in a God in their own way. For instance, Pain’s only figure of judgement was his own mind. If his actions were condemned, then he himself would be the one setting up consequences for those actions. Unlike Christianity, Pain’s only church was his mind (“The Age of Reason”). In “Age of Reason” he goes on to say, “When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime” (Pain). In other words, human beings are bound to make “bad” choices; they’re bound to make mistakes due to the elements that surround them on a daily basis. However, the only people who are allowed to enforce any type of punishment on them are the individuals themselves. Once an individual has made one “bad” decision, then there’s nothing even “worse” that person can do.

The Caterpillar Priest

“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

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