Proverbs from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – 1

Continuing with Allen Ginsberg’s 1979 Naropa classes on William Blake. Today (from February 1, 1979) he begins his discussion of some of the proverbs in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening”

AG: If you had a morning long enough to just do nothing but think and consider,meditate. Then at noon, act, like, strike then, while the sun is out, and having acted then, rest from action, take refreshment and eat and then have a nice sleep – sounds perfect.   

“He who has suffer’d you to impose on him knows you”.

AG: That’s pretty good. Has anyone ever taken care of a junkie? That’s where you might get – “He who has suffer’d you to impose on him” –  (or have been a junkie being taken care of by somebody?) – or a meth-head, particularly – or hung around your parents house after the age of twenty-nine? – twenty-nine. Does anybody.. has anybody thought about that one, known that one before? – The guy who knows you best is a guy who, like, has been taking care of you, and you’ve been hanging on to him, and he’s been feeding you, and providing your grass, and sucking your cock, anything you wanted, (licking your cunt), writing letters to your draft-board for you, taking care of the mail, paying your rent, taking your music lessons for you, teaching you manners. Now he knows you, (in the sense that he knows you can’t do it, or where your weaknesses are, or where the holes are in your maturity, or effort).

“The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”  

AG: That”s the most famous proverb probably here. Has anybody got anything to say about that? But’s that’s all (familiar)… Is there any illustration (by Blake) to that? It’s written in red. It’s written in a red line. Like, the different lines are done in different colors, according to the mood of the line, and that particular one’s in red – “Horses of instruction”, (so) heavy, the horse is kind of heavy, thoughtful.  

Related to that, yes, I understood something, The mill..  What was the phrase about “mills”?…Was there?… did we have a phrase in which he had “the mill”?… anywhere?  Yeah, somewhere in “The French Revolution” was there something about “the mills”? 

Student: “Satanic mills”?

AG: Well there is “the dark Satanic mills”, yeah. I was thinking about it today. But we have the mills elsewhere. It was in “The French Revolution” possibly. I’d forgotten about it. “Mills”, as was pointed out, represents the mind, the linear mind, the conceptual mind, the rational mind, the square mind, the Urizenic mind, the mind limited to abstractions, the mind cut off from body, emotion, and imagination.

Student: There’s a thing on the mill in: ”(There Is) No Natural Religion” –  it says “don’t become a dull round the universe will soon become a  mill complicated wheels” (“The bounded is loathed by its possessor. The same dull round even of a universe would soon become a mill with complicated wheels.”)

AG: Yes, under a Newtonian materialist system. In a later part of this (“Marriage of Heaven and Hell”), he’ll take a view of Hell with the angels, or a view of space with the angels and the devils , and they’ll be coming back in to the mill occasionally, coming back into the mind’s workings occasionally, or going back to the.. way, you know, of, sort of like the mill, in a later scene. There was a… there was a line with a “mill” in it that.. Well, we’ll find it. It’ll turn up sooner or later. It was just an interesting…   Remove those “Satanic mills”, yeah, it’s just that the Satanic mills are the projections-of-the-mind-mills, and so they’re externally Satanic – so “dark Satanic mill”.. By “mill”, he means..  I used “mill” in a long poem I wrote recently, “Plutonian Ode”, talking about… ”raise my voice exhaling sky above silent mills at Hanford, Rocky Flats” – (” I begin your chant openmouthed exhaling into spacious sky over silent mills at Hanford..”), So the “mill” is a pun on the mechanical turning of  the mind, mechanical turning of the mind over concept after concept after concept, abstraction after abstraction 

Student: Might that have something to do with “Eyeless at Gaza” and  “slaves at the mill”? (“Eyeless at Gaza at the Mill with slaves”)

AG: Well, it would be “slaves at the mill”. Yeah, there’s the notion of “slaves at the mill” – slaves at the mill of the mind –  And he would take that from.. the mill might be taken from.. Milton. Milton!  Milton called the mill!, come to think of it, Mill-ton Mill-town, Mil-town (no, that was a pill!)

Well, we’re back to “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. The horses would carry the… that wooden handle that turns the mill. Like if mules didn’t do it, or if people didn’t do it .   

Has anybody ever heard that before.  “The tygers….”  Tell me.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard that phrase. Nobody?

Student: But I’ve read it.

AG: …or read about it, read it before   (Allen encounters a disappointing show of hands) – Oh well, let’s dwell on it. I thought that was an obvious one but, if you haven’t heard it. (So) what does that mean?  Does anybody got any idea?

PO: Somebody blowing the whistle on corruption, or taking the…

AG: “Tygers of wrath”

PO: Someone’s going to stick his neck out to point to some mass wrong or   injustice and blast loose?

AG: Uh-huh , yeah

Student: (Something like) (Chogyam) Trungpa Rinpoche pointing out some thunderbolt situation)

AG: Well, maybe. I wonder how that… that would be an interesting one for the Merwin situation “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction” – There’s a “tyger of wrath” there. 

Well, one obvious thing is a “tyger of wrath” is, after all, an actual feeling, like another dimension of feeling, and so the dimension of feeling, even anger, even terror (like Orc, the revolutionary, his wrath, the “tygers” of his wrath, revolution, are wiser than…

Student: …Universities

AG: Well, to the mills of thought, or the universities of thought, or the…

Student; It could also be seen as a reversal of the proverb,”discretion is the wiser part of valor”, or something.

AG: “Discretion is the better part of valor” – Yes – Yeah, it would be just the opposite of discretion. “The horses of instruction” will always say, “Well, compromise, make do, work within the system, adapt, don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat, be gentle, be sensible, use skilful means, go (waltzing) tonight with the Regent (sic) That would be “the horses of instruction”. He’s not denying that “the horses of instruction” have instruction. I mean there is instruction from the horses’ situation ( – why “horse”? – I don’t know. There must be some.. probably some kind of symbolism. Is somebody going to take the trouble to look “horse” in (S. Foster Damon). Look up the horse and see if the horse is anything more. It probably recurs. Horse is sometimes… in the drawings, you’ll notice, there’s occasionally a horse rising on its hind legs in a… it’s like a wind-horse almost, or a horse rising up into the wind, in some of the… I think probably here itself, in the (“Marriage of Heaven and Hell)”, (in) one of the pages… (ah, I don’t know where he is!… we’ll come on him sooner or later), but, a marginal figure – now I think there’s a horse falling in one of them, yeah, there’s a horse falling on.. [Allen continues to peruse the illustrations] that must be a ”horse of instruction” falling, in fact, on Plate V  – got that? – Plate V – A horse being instructed – yeah – (and) Plate XIV,, near the foot of the page, there’s “a prancing horse expressing energy released” – in Plate XIV – yeah, at the bottom, near the foot of the page, see it? –  in the “For man has closed himself up”  (“For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through the narrow chinks of his cavern”)and in-between the banners unfurling from the letters is a little horse rising, which Keynes describes as a horse, “a prancing horse expressing energy released”.

There are some, I think, Tibetan symbols of a similar thing.. Have you ever seen a Tibetan prayer flag where there’s a horse flying through the air? (similar, similar idea, probably).

That “tygers of wrath (are), wiser than the horses of instruction” is one of the most famous lines in all Blake, if you haven’t heard it, simply because it’s the biggest excuse for break-through, or self-justification for emotional break-through, or even anger, seeing the intelligence of anger, or the intelligence of, or wisdom, of a more blunt approach, the wisdom of spontaneous mind, tiger-wrath, (even if the spontaneous mind breaks things up, like revolution).

In the poem “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright” (which we’ll come to) – “What the hammer? what the chain,/ In what furnace was thy brain?/ What the anvil?, what dead grasp,/ Dare its deadly terrors clasp!” – It’s a kind of rudimentary mill –  the anvil, chain), but on the other hand, those are the appurtenances of Los, the poetic genius, representative of imagination, localized on the planet, on earth, so that the “tiger of wrath” is actually a creation of the human imagination. It’s.. It doesn’t exist outside. It’s not a deistic or theistic idea that built into the universe there’s some big evil tiger waiting to get us, like death or ultimate pain. but that any state of consciousness is a creation of the imagination (including the tiger  – so both “lamb” and “tiger” are out of our own minds, or are projections of our own minds, which is actually pretty interesting, it’s consistent with Blake, consistent with Buddhism, oddly, obviously, but not really consistent with a Christian interpretation, or an absolutistic interpretation, which would say that there’s an absolute good and an absolute evil, and that evil is an existent thing and that threat – tiger, wrath, pain. Blake is saying they’re not absolute but they’re creations of the mind, they’re dreams, dream illusions (– real, I mean, real like dreams, real like this, but not… but, because transitory, not absolute – or because not made-up out of mind-stuff, not absolute). In other words, there is no ultimate eventual hell-tiger, but tiger-ourselves. We are tiger, obviously.  So that aspect of self which is “tyger”, that penetrant, majestic, mysterious, awesome, knocking-the-world-apart, is wiser, more penetrant than the plodding horse that’s just carrying the load all along, every day. Ordinary mind is.. ordinary mind with no fireworks – chained!  

Peter Orlovsky: It says here.. (pointing to an entry in S. Foster Damon’s Blake Dictionary)

AG: What does he say?

PO: Horses represent reason..

AG: Ah.

PO: The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of destruction

AG: No, no, no in-struction

PO: ..Instruction… “.. the deep impulse of wrath has more wisdom than  what we have merely learned with our brains, Blake often associates tigers and horses. They are two of a quaternary – Q-U-A-T-E-R-N-A-R-Y – Lion (north) Tyger (east) Horse (south) and Elephant (west) Horses are animals of Urizen, therefore they are “golden”. They are “horses of light”. As such they pull the sun chariot of the redeemed Urizen (the Greek Apollo) in the fourteenth illustration to  Job The function of Urizen’’s horses is to draw his Plow of Nations: The preparations for the NewAge must be drawn by Reason. Unfortunately, Urizen made the fatal effort of giving  his horses to Luvah, a disaster often referred to.”

AG:   (To) Emotions.  Reason gave his horses to emotions to draw

PO: Reason.. “We glimpse the horses raging in the cave of Orc, “bound to the chariot of Love. However in the apocalypse, Urizen recovers his “Eternal horses”, (where Orc releases them) and ploughs the universe for the final harvest. In Milton, it is Satan who tries to drive the Harrow of Palamabron, with theresult that the horses are maddened and Palambron’s workk is disrupted.”

AG: That’s getting down too complicated.  Anything about “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” beyond that?

PO: Well it ends there.

AG: Ok.  In that.. Damon is tracing the use of the horse and Urizen’s horse (Urizen being the ploughman, mind ploughing over the territory), through the different books  

So there’s actually a literal symbolism here when he says that “the tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of  instruction”

I  wonder what he’d say about the tigers?  (to Student) Want to look up tigers? see what they’ve got going there? – pull up a chair.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and concluding at approximately sixteen-and-a-quarter minutes in

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