|Library of Congress
The Marriage of Heaven & Hell |
Plate 5, Copy D
Harold Bloom as a young man was influenced by Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry. As one of his early books he wrote Blake's Apocalypse, A study in Poetic Argument, copyrighted in 1963. He became a prolific writer and a renowned critic. Here he addresses Blake's analysis of Milton's Paradise lost in The Marriage of Heaven & Hell.
Bloom: "Few passages of literary analysis, and this is a surpassingly excellent analysis, have been misread as Blake's excursus on Paradise Lost. The traditional misinterpretation, with its distinguished lineage for Swinburne to C. S. Lewis, holds that Blake's reading is an antinomian one. Blake is as uninterested in moral evil as he is in moral good. Paradise Lost and the Book of Job are theodicies: they seek to justify the existence of moral evil by asserting the ultimate reality and providence of moral good. Against such theodicies, with their final appeal to the necessity of fallen nature, Blake makes a double attack, on the one hand rhetorical and ironic, on the other argumentative and prophetically serious."(Page 80)
In these quotes Bloom is critiquing Blake's critique of Milton. The words of Blake's The Marriage of Heaven & Hell are printed in blue.
Bloom: "Plate 5 and 6 are a reading of the great English epic [Paradise Lost] deliberately, which is to say ironically, from a Devil's point of view. Why did Milton restrain his poet's desire, and how did the restrainer, or reason, usurp desire's place and come to govern the unwilling poet?" (Page 79)
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 5 and 6, (E 34)
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling. And being restraind it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire. The history of this is written in Paradise Lost. & the Governor or Reason is call'd Messiah.Bloom: "The inner history of this psychic process is written in Paradise Lost, where it is externalized as the progressive inhibition of Satan, who is degraded by his fall, from active rebellion into passive plotting against the restraints of Right Reason. The restrainer, called Messiah by Milton, is called Satan in the Book of Job." (Page 80)
And the original Archangel or possessor of the command of the heavenly host, is calld the Devil or Satan and his children are call'd Sin & Death But in the Book of Job Miltons Messiah is call'd Satan. For this history has been adopted by both partiesBloom: "The two parties are Devils - or true poets who write to correct orthodoxy, and Angels - or ruined poets and theologians who write to uphold moral and religious conventions." (Page 81)
It indeed appear'd to Reason as if Desire was cast out. but the Devils account is, that the Messi[PL 6]ah fell. & formed a heaven of what he stole from the AbyssBloom : "The heaven of orthodoxy, or idea of restraint, was formed by the Messiah or Reason, but to get the stuff of creativity he had to 'fall' into the energetic world of imaginings, or else Reason would have no ideas to build on. So the Gospel promise to send the comforter is a desire for Desire, and the answering Jehovah of imagination, the Jehovah of the Bible, is a creator who dwells in flaming fire, not in the cold light of Milton's static heaven." (Page 81)
This is shewn in the Gospel, where he prays to the Father to send the comforter or Desire that Reason may have Ideas to build on, the Jehovah of the Bible being no other than he, who dwells in flaming fire. Know that after Christs death, he became Jehovah. But in Milton; the Father is Destiny, the Son, a Ratio of the five senses. & the Holy-ghost, Vacuum! Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing itBloom: "Yet as Blake's altogether ironic Note to this section adds, Milton the poet could not be content with this desperate quietism. Energy and desire enter into the poem when Milton writes at liberty, for Milton's greatness was, at last, in spite of himself. Because he was a true poet, his creative exuberance burst the fetters of right reason, and the Satan who dominates the first third of the poem came into his powerful existence." (Page 82)
Bloom: "The Devil is the artist William Blake, at work engraving the Marriage, and the corroding fires refer metaphorically both to his engraving technique ant the satiric function of the Marriage." (Page 83)
Apparently Bloom's answer to the question which he asked in the second quote is that Milton's desire was too weak not to be controlled by his allegiance to orthodox beliefs. However his poetic inspiration was strong enough to escape from the restraints of reason when he wrote of the rebellion of Satan.