Tag Archive: Poetry and Designs (Norton critical editions)

William Blake Conversion Therapy

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


La Petite Mort: Why the Orgasmic Grave?

Blake’s Song of Los ends which a curious, antithetical image of the grave, cursorily glossed by Johnson and Grant as “a regenerative orgasm” which transforms it into a “fruitful womb” (107):

The Grave shrieks with delight, & shakes

Her hollow womb, & clasps the solid stem;

Her bosom swells with wild desire:

And milk & blood & glandous wine.

In rivers rush & shout & dance

On mountain, dale and plain. (112)

What then to make of this? Life’s natural, teleological progression would, obviously, be toward that of the narrow house, the final and ever-abiding stasis of the grave. This grotesque image upsets and usurps such a formulation, however, making death not decaying but pregnant. There is a Dionysian degradation and delight. Though a degradation that here is more similar to a  “coming down to earth, the contact with the earth that swallows up and gives birth at the same time,” the vital loam; it is to take the idealized and make it fleshy, making lofty concepts corporeal. A discarnate existence in a contradiction in terms—whether here or in the here-after. Blake loathes what ignores the spiritual—e.g. “a Philosophy of the Five Senses” (110) alone—as well as what’s bloodless—e.g. Urizen’s fettering “mechanistic dictates” (107). Blake’s philosophy—however difficult such might be to pin down and delineate (but isn’t that his point?)—is an autochthonous one, one that “transfer[s] every high ceremonial gesture or ritual [here, specifically, death, the lapsing from one life to the next] to the material sphere” (Bakhtin).


Works Cited:

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984. Print.  (pg.21)

Blake, William. “The Song of los.” Blake’s Poetry and Designs. Ed. Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print. (pg. 107-12)