I’ve certainly been enjoying my recently acquired copy of the full-color 1994 Dover edition of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The reproduction of Blake’s hand-painted, hand-lettered plates is spectacular, archaic spellings and all. Not only are they beautiful, but they offer added insight into Blake’s character, his fiery individuality, and the original thinking that sets him apart from other poets. Here is the second paragraph of the publisher’s three-paragraph prefatory note:

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, of which only nine copies are known to exist, was probably begun in 1789 and completed in 1790. The third of the illuminated books, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is principally a prose statement of Blake’s philosophic message. Often considered one of the first Romantic poets, Blake believed in the power of the imagination and in the stultifying effects of conventionality. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, these beliefs are illustrated not only by Blake’s reversal of traditional notions of Good and Evil, Angels and Devils, and Heaven and Hell, but by his celebration of the tensions produced by these “contraries.” Such tensions, according to Blake, are necessary to progress and creativity.

Philosophical and religious implications aside, I tend to agree. In fact, I have begun, tentatively, to explore these tensions by compiling some poetic annotations to a section of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that I find particularly intriguing and inspiring, namely, his Proverbs of Hell. Unless for some reason I decide to strike them from the record — which is highly unlikely, considering I have never done such a thing before — readers will find them collected in Volume 16 of my Songs and Letters, under the title The Annotated Proverbs of Hell. To set the stage, I’ve reprinted Blake’s short preface to the Proverbs, “A Memorable Fancy.”

Readers will also find a few more notes on the aforementioned Dover edition and an excerpt from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell well down the page in my haphazard reading log and supplement to my Favorite Books & Authors section, And I Quote.

Frankly, I haven’t decided yet whether I will comment on all sixty-nine (if I’ve counted correctly) of Blake’s Proverbs. I might lose interest part of the way through; or, — and this is a more likely scenario — I might become overwhelmed by Blake’s superiority and retire from my arrogant, audacious undertaking. But I do know this: finding out will be fun.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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