Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

"The Nature of my Work is Visionary or Imaginative; it is an Endeavor to Restore what the Ancients calld the Golden Age." -William Blake (Johnson/Grant,xxiv).

William Blake completed the manuscript of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, as well as the twenty-five accompanying engraved plates, in 1792. In the sense that the The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a vision of a particular version of reality, it subscribes to one definition of the mythic, but also fulfills another as Birenbaum writes in Tragedy and Innocence: "...on a more specialized level..."true myth"...suggests a penentration to the essential nature of human experience, made by conspicuously violating features of observable reality" (112-3), [and] "...its truth is not told, it is revealed, it happens to one" (136). In the first half of the above statement, Blake acknowledges his role as mythmaker, and then relates his purpose. Joseph Campbell echoes Blake when he explains, "What the myths are for is to bring us into a level of consciousness that is spiritual," (14). And how is consciousness transformed? "Either by trials...or by illuminating revelations" Campbell answers (126), because the vision transforms the mythmaker who then uses the myth to bring visions to others. Yet Blake's goal is not simply philosophical but also aesthetic, for "...to see through the fragments of time to the full power of original being is a function of art" (Campbell, 228).

Though the The Marriage of Heaven and Hell has elements of satire in its "parodies of the Bible and of the religious teachings of Emanual Swedenborg...as well as assaults on popular images of heaven and hell" (Johnson/Grant, 81), it...

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... is in our human nature to learn, to grow because "Where man is not, nature is barren" (71); Humans create their own meaning, but it is largely through the flames of imagination, not the arrogance of reason.

Bibliography

Birenbaum, Harvey. Tragedy and Innocence. Wahington D.C.: University Press of America, Inc., 1983.

Blake, William. Selected Poetry. Edited by W.H. Stevenson. London: Penquin Books ltd., 1988.

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1988.

Farrell, Deborah, and Presser, Carole, eds. The Herder Dictionary of Symbols. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications, 1978.

Johnson, Mary Lynn, and Grant, John E., eds. Blake's Poetry and Designs. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, INc., 1979.

Raine, Kathleen. Blake and Antiquity. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1977.
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