The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: The Bible of Hell

I have also: The Bible of Hell: which the world shall have whether they will or no.

Plate24

For Blake The Marriage of Heaven and Hell occurs when the sanctimonious, commandment-loving Angel finally gives up his/her smug sense of superiority and happily embraces the flames of fire and joins the Devil’s party, a party which believes in the presence of God in each and every human being. Prior to this moment of transformation the Angel is committed to a hierarchical view of the universe in which God controls everything and human beings are all “fools, sinners, & nothings”. This is certainly how Blake saw the attitude of the churches of his time towards people in general. It is for this reason that he attacked the tyranny of the church along with the tyranny of the law and the tyranny of the state. The image above, of Nebuchadnezzar on his knees, is Blake’s image of the justifiable fear that those in authority should feel. Nebuchadnezzar was the tyrant king who was punished by being driven into the fields for seven years. Some of Blake’s audience may well have seen this as a depiction of King George III. Like King Louise of France, King George would be confronting the forces of republicanism. In this picture he is terrified. The proverb underneath him “One Law for the Lion & the Ox is Oppression” is Blake’s way of attacking the social injustices perpetrated by the law courts of his day. This was the period during which a poverty stricken man could be transported for 7 years to Australia for stealing a hat or an 11 year old girl on the streets could be transported for stealing clothes to keep herself warm. This girl, Mary Wade, is part of the family tree of Kevin Rudd.

This concluding plate in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is followed by “The Song of Liberty” which is in fact the first work of the “Bible of Hell” which Blake promised in the above Plate (Plate 24). This “Song” announces the start of a new age in which the narrator is presented as a prophet of revolution. The new king of this revolution is the Devil himself, someone who does not see human beings as “fools, sinners, & nothings”, but rather as carriers -each and every one of them- of God, of the Divine energy, for – as the last line of “The Song of Liberty” democratically declares:

For every thing that lives is Holy

Blog Topics for Week 5

1/ Say whether Blake’s view of the Divine challenges or expands your own views of Religion.

2/ Take any one of Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and expand its significance by describing its relevance to life TODAY. This can be either in the form of a poem or a short prose piece.

3/ In your own words, using your own imagination, continue a story that begins: “Once I saw a Devil in a flame….

4/ Create a Digital Kit that gives a range of annotated resources to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

5/ Imagine the character that lies behind this face:

william_blake_death_mask

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