Proverbs from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – 10

Sources for above reproductions (top to bottom): the new E; William Blake, Selected Poetry, ed. David V. Erdman, in the Signer Classic Poetry Series (1976); the old E; William Blake’s Writings, ed. G.E. Bentley, Jr. (1978); Blake, Selected Poetry, ed. Ruthven Todd, in the Laurel Poetry Series, gen. ed. Richard Wilbur (1960); The Complete Writings of William Blake, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (1966); Poems of William Blake, ed. W.B. Yeats (1969; rpt. of 1905 ed.); The Portable Blake, ed. Alfred Kazin (1946); Selected Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. Northrop Frye (1953); William Blake: The Complete Poems, ed. Alicia Ostriker (1977); Blake’s Poetry and Designs, eds. Mary Lynn Johnson, John E. Grant (1979); The Poetical Works of William Blake, ed. John Sampson (1913); The Poems of William Blake, ed. W.H. Stevenson (1971); William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, pl. 10 (copy D, Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress). – illustration via Blake Quarterly, Vol. 18, Issue 1, 1984

continuing from yesterday

“Improvement makes straight roads but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius”

Student: Allen.why is (improvement”) that way?

AG: Let’s take a look at the original and see. {Allen refers to his books) It’s the.. almost the end of “The Proverbs of Hell”…What did he do there? He probably mis-spelled it and then noticed! You see, he… he’s… You know his method of etching? Has anybody read up on that? Anybody got any technical knowledge on it? I have not.. I haven’t read up on it, I’ll have to.. well, before the course is over, I’ll figure it out. but he mentions.. (We’ll have to get it on anyway for the “corrosives”, later, when he makes his Bibles of Hell. (sic) – “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is – Infinite. This I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid” – Blake writes in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”)

But he had to cut… Let’s see.. what did he do?..

Student: Didn’t he put wax over metal and then etched the wax off and then..?

AG: Yeah. Max over wetal – Wax! – Max over metal! (That’s my problem, I can’t figure where they put the metal over the block). Put wax over the metal – And then he incised it (and he probably was incising I-M-P-R-O and wife said “Supper!” – E-N-T. – a little gap – and then so it’s in there with maybe a little red mark over it. And it probably said.. He probably originally would have said.. I bet his original idea was to write “Improvement makes straight roads but crooked roads are genius”. But then he saw, “Oh, I’ve got to put the “improvement” in to get that.. and so that people understand I meant “improvement”. So he probably had to restructure his entire slogan to get that straight.

Student: He could have made a correction in there but that would have been an Improvement” if he would..

AG: Yes. Well, that’ s really true.. You’re exactly right This particular line is a crooked road! – He could have made a straight road out of the line. It’s that pure spontaneous mind genius – It’s really true. I never noticed that! It’s amazing! – That line is an example, likely of the ..

Student: …of its own message?

AG: …of its own..”medium is the message” there. Exactly – as an example. It’s an exemplification of the thought. It’s a thought which has gone through excess and found its form by means of going through excess – “The road of..

If the fool would persist in his folly, he’d be wise” – “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” – “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction” – “Exuberance is beauty” – and “Crooked roads are roads of genius” – It all fits, as one single insight (which is a natural insight – I mean, it’s not an idea but is something you see around you everywhere).

That was a great idea. A good thing someone asked about that . You know what they did in here, in the text, in the Erdman text where they…they improved it by – I-M-P-R-O-V – and then they have a little block that says ME M-E and then N-T.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately fifty-nine-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-three minutes in


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