Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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A prose work by W. Blake, etched c. 1790–73, introduced by a short poem. It consists of a sequence of paradoxical aphorisms in which Blake turns conventional morality on its head, claiming that man does not consist of the duality of Soul = Reason and Body = Evil, but that ‘Man has no Body distinct from his Soul…Energy is the only life, and is from the Body…Energy is Eternal Delight.’ He proceeds to claim that Milton's Satan was truly his Messiah, and that Milton ‘was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it’, and to produce a series of ‘Proverbs of Hell’ (‘Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires’ being one of the most notorious), which also celebrate the holiness of the natural world. He then moves to a sequence of visionary encounters with angels and prophets, in the course of which he dismisses the writings of Swedenborg (whom he had greatly admired), accusing him of not having conversed sufficiently with Devils but only with Angels, and ends with an evocation of an Angel turned Devil. G. B. Shaw, who greatly admired Blake, was much influenced by his doctrine of contraries.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

William Blake (1757—1827) engraver, artist, and poet

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