The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
William Blake
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The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a book by the English poet and printmaker William Blake. It is a series of texts written in imitation of biblical prophecy but expressing Blake's own intensely personal Romantic and revolutionary beliefs. The work was composed between 1790 and 1793, in the period of radical ferment and political conflict during the French Revolution. The title is an ironic reference to Emanuel Swedenborg's theological work Heaven and Hell, published in Latin 33 years earlier. Swedenborg is directly cited and criticized by Blake in several places in the Marriage. Though Blake was influenced by his grand and mystical cosmic conception, Swedenborg's conventional moral strictures and his Manichaean view of good and evil led Blake to express a deliberately depolarized and unified vision of the cosmos in which the material world and physical desire are equally part of the divine order; hence, a marriage of heaven and hell. The book is written in prose, except for the opening "Argument" and the "Song of Liberty". The book describes the poet's visit to Hell, a device adopted by Blake from Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost.

The Marriage of
Heaven and Hell

by
William Blake


The Argument

RINTRAH roars and shakes his fires in the burden’d air,
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek, and in a perilous path
The just man kept his course along
The Vale of Death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted,
And a river and a spring
On every cliff and tomb;  
And on the bleached bones
Red clay brought forth:
Till the villain left the paths of ease
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility;
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burden’d air,
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

As a new heaven is begun, and it is now thirty-three years since its advent, the Eternal Hell revives. And lo! Swedenborg is the angel sitting at the tomb: his writings are the linen clothes folded up. Now is the dominion of Edom, and the return of Adam into Paradise. — See Isaiah xxxiv. and xxxv. chap.

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys reason; Evil is the active springing from Energy.

Good is heaven. Evil is hell.


The Voice of the Devil

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the cause of the following errors: —

1. That man has two real existing principles, viz., a Body and a Soul.

2. That Energy, called Evil, is alone from the Body; and that Reason, called Good, is alone from the Soul.

3. That God will torment man in Eternity for following his Energies.

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