Proverbs from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – 3

William Blake – Newton (1795–1805) Collection Tate Britain

Allen Ginsberg on the Proverbs of Hell from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” continues.

AG: Here’s an interesting one (they’re all interesting, but..) 

“The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth”

I never did quite understand what he’s got, but he’s got a real weird homunculus built out of that anyway. I mean, it’s an interesting image, it’s sort of like a Tibetan thangkasome sort of, it seems, like, transparent mad creature, with fiery eyes, air-nostrils, water-mouth, beard of earth. Albion, I suppose – Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Well, the traditional four elements. The elements that relate to the Four Zoas are Earth (Tharmas)…what are the…what are the symbolisms there?. So it would be..well – let’s work it out, actually, according to his own symbolism – Fire is Emotions, yeah? – The eyes of emotion! – The nostrils of.. reason (ha!, ha!, the smell of reason, that’s funny! – that’s a funny idea) – the mouth of Water (that’s the body, itself, or the loins, or the body, or the physical body). And “the beard of Earth”? – (the Earth element is.. the beard of imagination (the beard of Los), the beard of poetry. So, a funny creature he’s created. Those, all together, would be Albion (well, Imagination’s Wisdom, actually, it would be bearded). So those are all Albion, the risen Man, the whole Man.

Student: The eyes of fire?

AG: The eyes of fire was..

Student (2): Emotion

AG: Emotion, yeah. It’s all in.. You’ve got this in this thing here [points in his Blake book] – the little page of attributes. But it’s just, particularly, you know, it’s just like as a funny little… – It’d be an interesting painting.

“The weak in courage is strong in cunning”

AG: That’s me! – “cunning”. Everybody knows that one – “The weak in courage is strong in cunning” – how to get around the situation.

“If others had not been foolish, we should be so”

AG: …which is like “The cut worm forgives the plow” or.. “If others hadn’t been foolish..” then we wouldn’t learn, though, we wouldn’t have learned from their example, or their exploration. And so we have to fill in the gap, or fill out their corner and find out what it meant.

Student: It looks like he’s taking a pot-shot at ego in that one too

AG: Mmm-mm, Yeah.. Well people saying,”Well, that guy’s foolish”

Student: Or just that you’re not really yourself, you’re a whole lot…

AG: Mmm-mm, yeah

Student: (That sounds a bit like Newton, his “If I have seen (a) further distance , it was because (I) “stood on the shoulders of giants” – (“If I have seen a little further it was by standing on the shoulders of giants” (Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke, 1676)

AG: Yeah

Student: (Newton)

AG: He stood on the shoulders of whom?

Student: Giants

AG: Newton said that?

Student: Yeah, he was giving credit to his predecessors

AG: That sounds like Blake, actually. It sounds as good as Blake. I never heard that one. Newton said he wouldn’t have seen such a distance unless he stood on the shoulders of giants.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-five minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-nine-and-a-half minutes in

 

 

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