Monday, August 27, 2012


Library of Congress
Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 10, Copy D

T. S. Eliot captures much of Blake's character and independent nature in this passage. Blake's lack of formal education under the tutelage of orthodox authorities contributed to the confidence he had in his own ability to create his own system based on his own experience. F
rom the chapter Twentieth-Century Criticism, (T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays) in Blake's Poetry and Designs, edited by Mary Lynn Johnson and John E Grant, we read:

"It is important that the artist should be highly educated in his own art; but his education is one that is hindered rather than helped by the ordinary processes of society which constitute education for the ordinary man. For these processes consist largely in the acquisition of impersonal ideas which obscure what we really are and feel, what we really want, and what excites our interest. It is of course not the actual information acquired, but the conformity which the accumulation of knowledge is apt to impose, that is harmful. Tennyson is a very fair example of a poet almost wholly encrusted with opinion, which wholly merged with his environment. Blake, on the other hand, knew what interested him, and he therefore presents only the essential, only, in fact, what can be presented and need not be explained. And because he was not distracted, or frightened, or occupied in anything but exact statements, he understood. He was naked, he saw man naked, and from the centre of his own crystal. To him there was no more reason why Swedenborg should be absurd than Locke. He accepted Swedenborg, and eventually rejected him, for reasons of his own. He approached everything with a mind unclouded by current opinions. There was nothing of the superior person about him. This makes him terrifying."
(Page 508)

Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 139)
"In the Eastern porch of Satans Universe Milton stood & said
Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches
Is to impress on men the fear of death; to teach
Trembling & fear, terror, constriction; abject selfishness
Mine is to teach Men to despise death & to go on
In fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn
Thy Laws & terrors, shaking down thy Synagogues as webs
I come to discover before Heavn & Hell the Self righteousness
In all its Hypocritic turpitude, opening to every eye
These wonders of Satans holiness shewing to the Earth
The Idol Virtues of the Natural Heart, & Satans Seat
Explore in all its Selfish Natural Virtue & put off
In Self annihilation all that is not of God alone:
To put off Self & all I have ever & ever Amen"

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