The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


Originally written between 1789 – 1790

Blake’s work was not published in mass produced paper books. His books were individually decorated documents printed from copper plates that were etched into shape using acids. The plates could be re-used and throughout his life, when Blake wanted to produce a new version of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he would re-print it and then colour it by hand. This was a laborious and time-consuming process. As such it is likely that the 9 copies of ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ currently on existent are the only copies ever produced.


The first real description of his philosophy – broke with Bacon, Newton and Locke who favoured reason

Angel – passive reason

Devil – active, energetic, imaginative

            Imagination is the way God manifests himself in man

            An extreme form of humanism – men can be gods


Blake inverts good & bad, heaven & hell

            The devil is good because passive acceptance is stagnating, but opposition drives things forwards

            ‘Without contrariness there is no progression’


The Voice of the Devil:

1.       Body and soul aren’t distinct – the body is the expression of the soul detectable by the 5 senses

2.       Energy is the only life … Reason is the bound or circumference of energy.

3.       Energy is eternal delight


‘Those who restrain desires do so because theirs are weak enough to be restrained’

Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God and at liberty when he wrote of the Devil and hell.’


Proverbs of Hell:

·         ‘A fool sees not the same tree as the wise man’

·         ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’

·         ‘Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with the bricks of religion’

·         ‘The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea and the destructive sword are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.’

·         ‘The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.’

·         ‘As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs upon, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.’

·         ‘Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.’

·         ‘Exuberance is beauty.’

·         ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up till he sees all things through narrow chinks of a cavern.’

·         ‘Opposition is true friendship’


‘The worship of God is … loving the greatest men best’


The final lines are:

‘Let the priests of the raven of dawn no longer in deadly black with hoarse note curse the sons of joy. Hor his accepted brethren, whom, Tyrant, he calls free: lay the bound or build the roof. Nor pale religious lechery call that virginity that wishes by acts not. Everything that lives is Holy’