Thursday, June 27, 2013

Marriage of Heaven and Hell

From Wikipedia:

The work was composed between 1790 and 1793, in the 

period of radical foment and political conflict immediately 
after the French Revolution.

 The title is an ironic reference to Emanuel Swedenborg's
 theological work Heaven and Hell, published in Latin 33 
years earlier. Blake directly cited Swedenborg and criticized 
him in several places in the Marriage, as well as throughout 
his poetry.

(See Plates 3, 19, 21, and 22 of MHH as well as well as 
 Blake's annotations of three of Swedenborg's works; 
 Erdman 601-11))

Title page of
Marriage of Heaven and Hell
from LocGov Rosenwal

The title page is colored with a lot of detail:

On the borders you see several trees, merging at the top of the 
At the upper part of the picture, between the Marriage, drawn and 
Heaven, typed. you see a couple on the left and another one on the 
right.  The one on the left is strolling; on the right one is kneeling 
and the other reclining.

Below 'Heaven', clustered around the drawn 'of' are a series of 
'flying' figures, solitary ones at the upper left, but showing couples 
as you move over to the right part.
Below HELL is construed to be a single couple in a romantic 
embrace, the left one perhaps a naked girl and on the left what 
might be a clothed young man. Erdman in Alluminated Blake 
refers to this couple as an angel and a devil (much of the text in 
MHH involves a dialogue between an angel and a devil).

This figure may be thought to symbolize the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

At this level the trees might be thought of as flaming, followed by 
a patch of blue and then darker branches leading to a black 
background. The flames seem to be consuming the trees, 
suggesting "the alchemical tradition  where truncated trees signify 
death, as an instrument of transformation, preparing the way for 
new life"

The concept of death and resulting life is very central in Blake's 
thought and values.  All of the elements of the picture described above are significant details of Blake's myth and values.

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