Proverbs from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – 11

Blake – 11 – Ginsberg on Blake’s Proverbs of Hell continues

AG: “Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” What do we do with that? Anybody know that one or interested in that one? Well, that would fit in with “Exuberance as Beauty” too, or (“Expect poison from the standing water”) “Still waters” poison still waters. The unacted desires would be poisonous.

“Where man is not, where man is not..” “Where-man-is-not, nature is barren. That’s kind of interesting and its (a) very Chinese notion. that… (and) also a Buddhist notion. Does anybody want to explain that, or can (say) what that means? – “Where man is not, nature is barren.” Does anybody..

Student: (I’d suggest) the notion that if…

AG: It’s progress

Student: …(if) people don’t act on something, that (if) people don’t …aren’t.. active with their environment, then it doesn’t exist, it’s sterile – and I totally agree with that.

AG: Yeah, well then, it’s sort of like a… it’s almost the opposite of saying “Improvement makes straight roads but crooked roads are roads of genius”. On the other hand, crooked roads are roads of genius – and man is part of nature (so it’s a part of nature that would make nature, otherwise barren), but, go on..

Student: Could it also be the whole idea that, if there’s no one to hear the tree in the forest fall, fall on you, then there’s no man to appreciate nature?

AG: Well, there’s no appreciator. If there’s nobody there to appreciate nature, there’s no appreciation.

Student (2): Trees appreciate the rivers and the creeks

AG: Yeah, but.. do they have the same. I mean “appreciate”? – they drink (from) the rivers, they relate to the rivers. I guess they appreciate it. You could say, they incline to the rivers. But there’s another quality of appreciation which is as purely the sight-sound-smell-taste-touch consciousness-mind thing, which is unique, very specialized, like a real specialized foonote to all the motions of nature. There’s this weird world of consciousness which is particularly human. It specializes in appreciation. That’s the one thing it can do. It can’t do much else, but it can appreciate, appreciate, you know, to the limits of the universe, because of.. because of imagination. Human imagination can extend appreciation beyond anything we can.. (probably can beat everybody else’s expansiveness and appreciation). Because a human being can imagine appreciating all the way to the infinite, in a way. Plus, if you throw in emotions, you can really get it, you can really get it going, as far as the subjective flash of appreciation. Well, just from that point of view. But it’s something other, other than that, that I think is the point, actually. Then (there are) the subjective solipsistic flashes, I think. Then there is the simple early neolithic agronomic notion that men do make variations, and carry things around and create new forms of nature, you know, trees, cultivate some plants. Well, nowadays it’s making nature more barren, you might say, in the sense of the destruction of species, bio-cide of species .

But, the.. a classic version of this would be that the.. nature.. all of nature consists of Heaven, the basic space, or void, or ground of being.

And then there’s Earth, which is forms and lives and trees and rivers – and form (if you have this space of the sky for Heaven, Chinese-style Heaven, and then Chinese-style Earth, with the seasons, and diurnal processes).

And then there is Man who connects them, connects Heaven and Earth, in the sense of.. understands the space of the sky, understands the emptiness of the mountains, and so connects by his perception, or awareness, the emptiness of Heaven and the forms of Earth, or sees that the forms of Earth are filling up the emptiness of Heaven (or “trampling on the Great Void” – sees that he’s trampling on the Great Void) – So, only man can trample on the Great Void, because maybe the animals don’t know it’s a void (and) think it’s real?. So in that sense – “Where man is not, nature is barren.”. In the sense that there is no total freedom magic of connecting Heaven and Earth

Student: It seems this probably could have a sexual interpretation also

AG: Ah, yes, how would you..delineate a little more precisely

Student: Sexual, being..

AG: Nature would be… yes?…

Student: Erdman , he has something to say about..

AG: What did he say? (that’s good)

Student: And “dancing behind “barren” to show how life is “Where man is”, are body and soul together again, with, perhaps, a lapwing and gull..”

AG: A what?

Student: A lapwing

AG: Uh-huh, that’s an interesting thing.. . In Plate 10, you might take a look at that. Keynes notices in that plate that “the decoration formed by strips of figures flying or dancing in the exuberant attitude seem to illustrate the central line of the page, “Exuberance is Beauty”, though one figure remains lying apparently, not yet aware of the general exuberance around him” That’s .. if anybody can take a look, you’ll see quite a few figures, dancing, flying, and there’s that couple dancing – “Where man is not, nature is barren.” – or the opposite, dancing.

Then, finally, “Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed” – That’s pretty generous – relying on people’s basic intelligence and good nature. And then, who are the people that are making all this stuff up? There’s a good look at a really cute-bodied naked angel with leather and bat’s wings (or some kind of funny wings), all painted pink and cute. You have no idea how sweet he looks in that, like real flesh-tones.

Student: But Erdman calls him the devil

AG: Well, these are “Proverbs of Hell’ so he’s making it up. It’s really pretty… Let me see.. And in this particular painting the sky is a kind of a violet purplish, reddish, scarlet violet – purple violet, purple reddish violet, on the right. And he’s got this long scroll that he’s reading these slogans from, or proverbs. And he’s turning to his right, and there’s a guy in a blue sort of virginal gown, a young student or something, trying to figure him out (he’s writing him down in his notebook so he won’t forget him – not realizing they’re all one perception, so.. but still, he’s working at it).

Then. there was… is there any description in the..of this.. yeah, there’s a description by Keynes, which might be interesting to read

“In the centre, the Devil is leaning with a scroll lying across his knees and presumably carrying the Proverbs. He is pointing impatiently to the first lines to instruct a slow-witted Angel industriously writing them down in a book on his knees, while probably misunderstanding them. Behind the Devil is a kind of throne or judgment seat from which he seems to have descended in his impatience” – (he got down off his seat, he got down on the ground and is really excitedly and enthusiastically trying to transmit these slogans) – “Sprouting from his back are spiky wings, their points directed respectivey to the words “Enough” and the words “Too much”

Has everybody got something to see it? – Get a book. Get a look. Find someone and pair up, just take a book of theirs It’s too good.. ..(It’s) just too good to miss.

Audio for the above can be heard – here beginning at approximately sixty-three minutes in, and continuing until approximately seventy-six-and-a-half. minutes in

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