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The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  9,048 ratings  ·  404 reviews
Once regarded as a brilliant eccentric whose works skirted the outer fringes of English art and literature, William Blake (1757–1827) is today recognized as a major poet, a profound thinker, and one of the most original and exciting English artists. Nowhere is his glorious poetic and pictorial legacy more evident than in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which many consider ...more
Paperback, 48 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Dover Publications (first published 1790)
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Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

Besides William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience, I haven't read anything else until I found this magnificent piece of writing first published in 1790. A book replete with humor,
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, for-school
This, quite frankly, is one of the greatest pieces of literature I've ever read⁠—in fact, extend 'literature' to include philosophy and theology as well. It's mad, complicated, mystical... suffice to say, it's essentially mind-expanding.

Works of genius, I find, fall under two basic categories: those that form the pinnacle of a particular genre; and those that, more generally, push the very limits of human achievement. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is genius in the latter sense.

A facsimile edit
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it

I’ve always loved provocative poetry. Not sensationalist I-don’t-even-have-a-good-reason-to-do-this provocative poetry, but rather pondered provocation disguised in insanity. That’s what The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is.

Blake’s conception does not reject religion altogether. Instead, Blake criticizes religious institution and its morality scheme, in which all is black and white. For Blake, the world has multiple shades of gray and there’s no evil or good in either side of the spectrum. In thi
I love Blake. He always manages to touch something in my heart. There's a reason the only poem I know by heart is one of his.
And whether it's with words, or with paint (The Night of Enitharmon's Joy is a personal favourite), or with his etchings (another personal favourite: 'Europe supported'. At first, it looks like a picture with 3 pretty, naked girls, then you realise it is harsh social commentary, that still rings true today), he always manages to make you think.

The Marriage of Heaven and H
Max Maxwell
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Uh... not libertarians, they'll take it out of context
Recommended to Max by: My wife, way back when
Hm... The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, eh? I read C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce before I read this, and I think his preface there sums up my thoughts on the work:
Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If I have written of their Divorce, this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for such a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I know what he meant.
And yet... I, too, do write of their divorce.

I think that The Marriage is a very engaging and invigorating intellectua
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, reread, britain
My belief is that William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is the greatest poem by one of the greatest poets in the English language. I have read it several times and find -- each time -- that it adds something new to the mix.

This time, I find that Blake has something to say about living through bad times when one feels disenfranchised and surrounded by yahoos. He puts most of his thoughts in the mouth of the Devil, and he does not portray Angels altogether favorably.

Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Blake was one of the greatest artistic geniuses, and this book is the clearest expression of his ideas outside of his sublime but gnomic prophetic books. This work on the other hand is brief and accessible, and is as good an introduction to Blake's visionary genius as one is likely to find. ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"If the doors of perception were cleansed,
every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite..."


Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a profound text, which is often frustratingly intangible. I really like William Blake - he's as trippy as anything, and is definitely a first rate poet. This particular volume contains very little in the way of poetry, and a lot in the way of theological discussion, as Blake posits the very radical idea that Christian morality need not be necessarily confined to classical dichotomies of Good vs Evil and Heaven vs Hell. Blake also rejects the strictly logical and rational, in favour of ra ...more
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence".

I believe Blake wants to prove the duality of human nature and the immoral purpose of religion to "destroy existence" by trying to "reconcile the two".
You'll find well known arguments by now, but revolutionary and highly controversial for the time this was published, like:
- the body is not distinct from the soul;
- religion is a human product used to "enslave th
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
After a month of reading books about mysticism and religion (both anti- and pro-) and dipping in and out of articles on the philosophy of religion, I decided to read this thing again [the rippling consequences of dating a literal Witch for a short while then angrily dismissing her entire worldview during an argument and then feeling spectacularly guilty about being so judgmental and frankly sad about no longer feeling her embrace on a couple nights a week are not to be underestimated].

Given the
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Beautiful crafted plates and put together into this text. Blake's desire to rearrange the devil's relationship with God and to abolish the concept of a heaven and hell, a good and bad, is well executed but I don't know if he means for us to take him seriously. Or rather, can we take him seriously?

This is definitely a text that you need to experience in the format of his plates which he so painstakingly painted in his home.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for High Schools. So many important lessons to be taken away from this book, not only concerning religion, but life in general. Blake is truly philosophical in his writings, and his ideas are especially important in today's world. ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Blake is a poet, and in my humble opinion, quite a good one. This little work was full of striking imagery and effective poetic devices.

But with that said...

Blake is a poet, and says nothing clearly. The only thing that is clear is that he has some criticisms of Christianity. What they are exactly, or if there are any solutions, is entirely up to the reader to guess.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brits, poetry
"Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burden’d air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep."

Blake’s own trip to hell starts with sound and fury. Unlike Dante’s stale and frozen hell, Blake’s is a raging and flaming place of Genius and creative Energy.
In this sardonic and hallucinatory poem, Blake answers to Swedenborg whose “Heaven and Hell” seems to have deeply irritated him as yet another expression of the dualism that he has always observed in institutionalised Christianity.
Both Good, assimilate
Nancy Nguyen
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was so great! It's filled with amazing parables and such wisdom (which can only be conjured by intertwining "good" and "evil," wink wink). I can only imagine this work being extremely revolutionary even now, so I can't imagine the reception during the Romantic period. This work makes me feel so special. Blake's like saying that we all have something to celebrate within ourselves (of course, he meant that in the most divine way possible), and you don't have to be religious to appreciate that ...more
Aug 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
I would love to see William Blake on the judgment day trying to explain to God why he wrote this book. And good luck to all the people that have to write essays about this book for their teachers. This book is one of biggest piece of boring rubbish that I've ever read. I understand the concept that he tried to portray but maybe he should read the bible more and try to understand that instead of trying to figure out and question God. ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, 2012
Started to read this so as to fully appreciate The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Could barely stand to do so. Abandoned.

Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Proverbs of Hell are a chilling and disturbingly saccharine peek into the psychological profile of the Human experience. Check out the Dover edition which has reproduced the original plates in facsimile and full color!
Jun 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: will-not-finish
DNF. Quit at the "Proverbs of Hell" because yikes. Absolutely baffling, and honestly, the art and calligraphy didn't impress me either. Though I do think the format is a cool one in books. ...more
Brynn Rova
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I just wanted to give a standing ovation every time one of the demons talked
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: university
i like william blake. i like his ideas on imagination and opposition. i’m not much of a romantic reader but william blake is always a lovely exception for me.
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Roses are planted where thorns grow”
Proverbs of hell
“Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity “
“He who desires but acts not breeds pestilence “
Adil El Azraki
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This, the most immediately accessible of Blake's longer works, is vigorous, deliberately outrageous, and at times comic, onslaught against many of the stock opinions of orthodox christian piety and morality. The seeming simplicity of bake's satiric attitude, however, is deceptive.

Initially, Blake accepts the terminology of middle-class Christian morality ("what the religious call Good and Evil") but reverses its values, In this conventional use of evil, which is manifested by the class the class
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
i simply can't add to many of the immortal lines found in the book such as, "When the doors of perception are cleansed, everything will appear as it is, infinite." thank God for the voice known as william blake. ...more
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanticism, poesy

Totally threw me for a loop when I first encountered it in a big old Norton Anthology as a repressed, curious, restless little christian boy just cutting his teeth on high school.
Christa Forster
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I try to read Blake at least once a year.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'll be currently reading this perpetually
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most profound of the so called Illuminated Books by William Blake, a gnostic and ground-shaking masterpiece
Prema Arasu
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Blake's visionary "Bible of Hell" is partly satirical, partly serious and I understood almost none of it, but it was beautiful. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: William Blake Quote 2 11 Jul 21, 2020 05:14AM  
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William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake's work is today considered seminal and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual arts.

Blake's prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the language". His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim h

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