Saturday, September 11, 2004

The poetry of William Blake

I don't read much poetry, but came across a volume of Blake's poetry and letters, abandoned, in Chris Hubbard's spare room.

There is much in his poetry that already rings a bell because it is obviously so much a part of the language.

For example, we all know these amamazing lines:

A Divine Image

Cruelty has a Human Heart,
And Jealousy a Human Face;
Terror the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy the Human Dress.

The Human Dress is forged Iron,
The Human Form a fiery Forge,
The Human Face a Furnace seal'd,
The Human Heart its hungry gorge.

The many pages of his religious poetry went over my head. Much of the names and mythologies I I don't know anything about. I did enjoy reading what I didn't understand though - there was fire and music as Betty Davis said in All About Eve.

His letters were interesting, dealing with a lot of his financial dealings and dreams of success.

But what I really loved and found amazing was his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

From the introduction:

'Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are neccessary 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.'

Wow! I've had those lines in my head for weeks now, 'Evil is the active springing from energy.'

Plus there is this from the section titled, The Voice of the Devil:

'Energy is eternal delight.'

And from the Proverbs of Hell........

'In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.'

'Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.' (I love that one.)

'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdon.' (That must have been an Oscar wilde favourite. Indeed, how much did he pinch from Blake????)

'Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.'

'He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.' (Another one from Oscar Wilde, to be found in the Picture of Dorian Gray.)

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