Tag Archive: God


Rogue Thoughts

William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” are astonishing in so many levels. First of all, when I think of the word “proverb” I associate it with a religious connotation – The Book of Proverbs –  and how it’s meant to inform people on how to live their life “truthfully” and “correctly” by honoring God; e.g. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). However, in Blake’s last proverb, he goes on to say, “Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.” In other words, Blake sheds light on his idea that people should already know “truth” without questioning it; that the truth can’t be told in a way that’s going to misinform individuals. However, with Marilyn Manson’s performance of the proverbs, it adds a very dark and rogue tone to the words. Almost like a parallel to society; that we live in a dark world in which truth surrounds us. We may question some of these dark truths but deep down inside, we may already know the answer them. With Manson’s performance, the proverbs sound like a form of common sense were supposed to know; one should already know and be aware that “the nakedness of woman is the work of God” and that “one thought fills immensity.” We’re expected to know these things based on the day to day lives we live.

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In two poems, William Blake shows how God creates Hope, but religion creates despair.

In William Blake’s The Songs of Innocence and Experience, I believe there are two poems that are linked by a loose thread. To find the link, one must employ equal parts close reading skill, knowledge of the historical cultural moment, and mental gymnastics. The link is so fine, so ephemeral and fleeting, that it is difficult to place the works into conversation, let alone open a discourse on their intertextuality. I speak of course of The Chimney Sweeper from The Songs of Innocence and The Chimney Sweeper from The Songs of ExperienceThe casual reader will invariably look at the titles of these two works and fail to see how they can possibly be placed in conversation with one another when their subject matter is so far removed. To this I cry “Folly!” I then put away my sarcasm, and begin my analysis of these two poems in earnest.

To contextualize: chimney sweeps’ apprentices, as they were formally called, were young children, often in single digit age brackets. These boys were unpaid laborers who were fed by their masters, and tasked with climbing into chimneys. The work conditions were such that they often perished.

The Chimney Sweeper (Innocence) looks at this profession with interesting optimism. The poem appears to tell the story of a boy named Tom who is visited by an Angel and is shown the coffins of thousands of dead children. This is, of course, a good thing. Consider the following truncated version:

As Tom was sleeping he had such a sight.
That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned & Jack
Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black,
And by came an Angel who had a bright key
And he open’d the coffins & set them all free
And the Angel told Tom if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.
Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.  (Blake 18)

This truncated version exemplifies the idea that there is joy and hope to be found in God. It is an optimistic text that reminds the reader that thanks to God, even the barbarism of child slavery that results in death can have a happy ending. Thus, The Chimney Sweeper of Innocence equates God with Hope.

The idea that God creates Hope is complicated by The Chimney Sweeper of Experience. The second poem creates, in lieu of the optimism and hope of God, the dread and despair of religion. The poem is markedly darker, and there is less focus on God and more focus on religion. The church has created the monsters, by preaching the ideal that “If all do their duty, they need not fear harm” (18). The adults that should be caring for and protecting this young boy “are gone to praise God & his Priest & King Who make up a heaven of our misery” (35). For symmetry, gaze upon the truncated version.

Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to church to pray.
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery. (35).

It is, therefore, God who creates hope, but Religion that allows despair.

 

Ross Koppel

Joy is born

without knowing the sorrows of the world

his soul is pure and untainted

worry free and care free, he smiles

Joy is born

His mother rocks his cradle

back and forth

forth and back

she hums a sweet melody

all the while weeping in fear

fear of the time that is to one day come

the day Joy’s soul becomes tainted

In the meantime Joy grows

he laughs

he plays

living life freely, no worries

but the mud on his pants

One day Joy is confused

scared, alone, and in need

he calls for help

he is lost

but one day Joy is found

after his mother teaches prayers

Joy now calls to God

when he is confused

scared

alone

and in need of help

Joy smiles

with the wrinkles on his face

he runs his hands through the grey hairs on his head

he thinks “wow, what a time when nothing mattered,

but the mud on my pants”

oh how beautiful that thing they call childhood.

 

After reading Blake’s Songs of Innocence and going through the archive’s to select pictures for my post, I was inspired to really focus on the concept of childhood. Childhood is truly one of the best stages in life that I feel we really whiz by and never really take the moment to truly appreciate that time we have when our minds are free of corruption. There’s so much hate, injustice, and sorrow in the world that after we come to the realization of these things, we truly appreciate our childhood. Blake beautifully captures this idea of childhood, but more interestingly incorporates religion heavily throughout the poems. Almost as if God is a crucial part of this “coming of age”.

-Kimberly Martinez-Melchor

 

The little boy los

He abandoned me at my worst. He left me at my best.

He was nowhere to be found when I needed him the most.

Why?

How?

Was there any emotion, any pain that traveled through his veins when he walked away?

Did he stop at the door, a feeling of regret possibly crossing his mind?

Or did he simply walk away?

 

Infant Joy

This will not define who I am.

This will not make me.

This will not rule me.

I’m alive.

I have health.

I am a child of God.

The Divine One is my father and He teaches me, and shows me to be happy.

To smile.

Laugh.

And I… I do these things. For Him.

For Me.

For my sanity.

On another sorrow

I will not have others feel pity for this fatherless boy.

I will not take it.

I choose to be happy.

To spread love and show them the joyful life I live.

That’s what I want them to feel.

My happiness, my smile, my humbleness.

Without it, we’re nothing but sad creatures dwelling on the phoniness of life.

 

I decided to write a short story that concerns the “parentless” / “abandonment” theme I noticed while reading the different plates. William Blake emphasizes heavy sympathetic and empathetic emotions in his writing and what I attempted to do was allow the speaker / protagonist of the story to show his vulnerable side by questioning this “abandonment” he’s faced with. Despite having a “sad” beginning, I decided to illuminate a sense of empowerment with the 2nd and 3rd plate. In the 3rd plate, rather than having the character feel sadness and take in other people’s pain (as is shown in On ANother’s Sorrow), I wanted him to feel empowered and spread that feeling around his community and share his happiness despite not having a male patriarchal figure raise him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This might be a pretty late post on this topic.

I remembered that in class we talked about Blake’s reception and I raised the example that even English teacher in a good high school is reading the famous picture of Urizen in The Ancient of Days as God the Almighty. And Urizen’s act of systemizing and confining the human race is read as the creation of human.

It really strikes me when I again see this image with a  incorrect annotation during summer. I received a book from my teacher in China and was asked to change them into some SAT writing materials. The name of the Book is the Art of Being Human. In the chapter of Religion in Themes in the Humanities, the author uses Urizen as the preface to the chapter.

“An artist visualizes God the Almighty as described in the Hebrew bible.”
William Blake, The Ancient of Days 1794.

It brought me back to the beginning of the lesson when we saw how Urizen appears in the entrance of GE building.

People thought that’s God.

Poetic Genius and Religion

Blake’s Philosophy of Art is impossible to seperate from his philosophy on religion. We know from our reading thus far that the poetic genius is a key part of the artistic process for Blake. But it is difficult for us to understand exactly what this genius entails. I don’t propose to be able to answer that question, but I do think that any full answer is going to contain some element of the divine. Blake has said how visions are of infinite importance to the artist. Because the visions are so critical, their source must be equally critical to our lives. I believe that the only possible source that would hold that level of importance to Blake is the divine. There must be some overlap between poetic genius and God.