Proverbs from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – 2

Allen Ginsberg on the Proverbs of Hell (from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” by William Blake) continues

“Expect poison from the standing water.”

AG: Well that’s obvious. If your mind just stands still and you haven’t.. you just sit and listen and look at tv all day. You haven’t.. year after year.. in a cocoon of your own mind, jacking off, never going out, pretty soon your skin will break out with blotches!

Student: If it’s left for a minute doesn’t wine turn to vinegar?

AG: Yes, right

“You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

Well, that’s pretty good advice for drinkers, or anybody, you know – You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. (And that ends – the whole thing ends – “Enough! or Too much!” (which is great – “Enough! or Too much!” – which is a very Oriental view in terms of this. That basically is the tantric view. so it’s, like, “the tigers of wrath, or, what is it? –“folly is the path of wisdom?” or, what was that one we had?

Student: The road to excess leads to the palace of..

AG: Yeah – “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. Did we get that already? – Yes? – That same thing. But that’s really true. I’ve been finding it recently that, I’ve been sleeping around for years and years and years. and getting older. and getting more.. better at it!  and its only when I’ve had more than enough that I’m beginning to get a balance and discover just what’s just about right, you know, to take a night off now and then, study Blake instead! – Well, or anything – food (unless you over-eat or over-drink – unless you over-drink, you’ll never know how much you can drink, you know, what your limit is. You never know what your limit is. So, unless you allow the “tyger of wrath” space, you’ll never know how wise you can be. Otherwise, there’s that limiting boundary of reason, energy will be bounded by reason (reason being the boundary of energy in Blake), and you’ll never find exactly what form, what bounded rational form your energy can take, unless you extend it to the boundary. So therefore this permanent expansion of consciousness, and permanent expansion of inquisitiveness, permanent expansion of experimentation, permanent expansion of love, permanent expansion of emotion, permanent expansion of experience, until you’ve reached the limits, or go a little beyond the limits and then come back a little, middle path, actually, middle way, checking out both poles). But never saying “No, this must be bounded here because I haven’t tried it and I don’t want to try it”. Try it first and then find out what your boundaries are. Otherwise, you’ll never know, maybe you’re bounding yourself in too little. So, you never know what’s enough unless you know what is more than enough. That’s not going to hurt you – within reason, you know.

I mean, obviously, you’re not going. to jump off the Empire State Building and fly! – but you might try jumping up – you might try jumping off a four-foot fence or something! – a twelve-foot fence – you might try jumping! – or anything. In other words, you can just use common-sense. But nonetheless. there is this signal to try, to go beyond what your boundaries are, to go beyond what you think your boundaries are, and to find what the boundaries are, to recognize the boundaries, to recognize reason’s boundaries, by exploring energy.

That ties up with a lot of other thoughts Blake has all through. In his painting and his drawing he’s insistent on boundaries, on fine definition. And so he got there, he got to be a big theoretician in painting and he hated Rubens, Rembrandt, he loved Raphael, Michelangelo, but he didn’t like Ribens and Rembrandt because they were all shadow, all big heavy shadow, and there was no definite boundaries, whereas he dug the Michaelangelesque very perfect, perfectly-drawn outlines. That connects with what he was saying before about paying attention to definite detail, to definition and detail and precision and detail, that connect with “Pay attention to minute particulars, take care of the little ones”. It all seems to be an interconnected system of both total energy (total expansive visionary energy, visionary in the sense of visioning further and further expansiveness, further explortion), and at the same time, locating the exploration in actuality, or locating the expansion in the area of ordinary mind where things were visible and bounded, so that you could actually make forms (which is the task of Los, the imagination, who has an actual anvil, hammer, (a little home-made mill, so to speak), and has to fashion actual universes, beings, forms, bodies, with his hammer, anvil, chains,mill and fire, or his blacksmith, his forge. So the imagination actually has to work with some kind of metal or some kind of earth matter, something to work on. You’ve got to connect with something, as E.M.Forster said, “Only connect”

“Only connect!” Connect to something. So there’s a correlation between “Enough! or Too much!” or “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom”, or “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”, or “Watch out for standing water, there might be poison in it” (there’s no expansion if there’s no movement) – “Expect poison from standing water” and “”You never know what’s enough until (sic) (unless) you know what is more than enough

Student: “The cistern contains and the fountain overflows”

AG: Yeah. Any number of these actually will bring you to the same… There’s also, later on, there’s another one in “The Proverbs of Hell” – “Exuberance is beauty” – like the red on the (book) jacket? – that exuberant red immediately, like, has its own expansive radiance. as soon as you see it.

to be continued

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


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *