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Once meek and in a perilous path
Then the perilous path was planted ;
Till the villain left the paths of ease
Now the sneaking serpent walks
Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air ;
The key-note is more clearly sounded in the following detached sentences :
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 and Evil. Good is the passive, that obeys Reason. Evil is the active, springing from Energy Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.
The Voice of the Devil.
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following
1. That man has two real existing principles, viz. a Body and a Soul.
2. That Energy, called Evil, is alone from the Body, and that Heaven, called Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment man in Eternity for following his energies.
But the following contraries to these are true :
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul, for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only Life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.
To this shortly succeeds a series of Proverbs or Aphorisms, fantastically called Proverbs of Hell,' of which, if some indeed contain the Wisdom of the Serpent, there are others wherein the wisdom is of a more terrestrial and innocent sort, while not a few possess a truly celestial meaning and beauty. These Proverbs we give almost entire.
In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
The hours of Folly are measured by the clock, but of Wisdom no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
The selfish smiling fool and the sullen frowning fool shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit, watch the roots; the lion, the tiger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth.
The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion,
You never know what is enough, unless you know what is more than enough.
Listen to the fool's reproach ; it is a kingly title !
The eyes of fire; the nostrils of air ; the mouth of water; the beard of earth.
The weak in courage is strong in cunning.
The apple-tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse how he shall take his prey.
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius ; lift up thy head!
One law for the lion and ox is oppression.
Prayers plough not ! Praises reap not!
As the air to a bird, or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.
The crow wished everything was black, the owl that everything was white.
Exuberance is beauty.
Improvement makes straight roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of Genius.
Where man is not, Nature is barren.
The remainder of the book consists of five distinct, but kindred prose compositions, not all following consecutively, each entitled a * Memorable Fancy. Half dream, half allegory, these wild and strange fragments defy description or interpretation. It would hardly occur, indeed, that they were allegorical, or that interpretation was a thing to be expected or attempted, but for an occasional sentence like the following:
—I, in my hand, brought the skeleton of a body which in the mill was Aristotle's Analytics.' And we are sometimes tempted to exclaim with the angel who conducts the author to the mill : Thy phantasy has imposed upon me, and thou oughtest to be ashamed.' Throughout these 'Memorable Fancies, there is a mingling of the sublime and grotesque better paralleled in art than literature—in that Gothic art with the spirit of which Blake was so deeply penetrated; where corbels of grinning and distorted faces support solemn overarching grandeurs, and quaint monsters lurk in foliaged capital or nook.
In the second Memorable Fancy, of which we give a brief sample or two, he sees Isaiah and Ezekiel in a vision :
* Then I asked: Does a firm persuasion that a thing is so make it so ?'
Te replied, “All poets believe that it does, and in ages of imagination this firm persuasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm persuasion of anything.'
Then Ezekiel said: "The philosophy of the East taught the first principles of human perception; some nations held one principle for the origin and some another; we of Israel taught that the Poetic Genius (as you now call it) was the first principle, and all the others merely derivative; which was the cause of our despising the priests and philosophers of other countries, and prophesying that all gods would at last be proved to originate in ours, and to be the tributaries of the Poetic Genius. It was this that our great poet, King David, desired so fervently and invoked so pathetically, saying, "By this he conquers enemies, and governs kingdoms ;” and we so loved our God, that we cursed in His name all the deities of surrounding nations, and asserted that they had rebelled. From these opinions, the vulgar came to think that all nations would at last be subject to the Jews.'
* This,' said he, like all firm persuasions, is come to pass, for all nations believe the Jews' code and worship the Jews' God; and what greater subjection can be ?'
I heard this with some wonder, and must confess my own conviction.
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 his cavern.
A Memorable Fancy.
I was in a printing-house in hell, and saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
In the first chamber was a dragon-man, clearing away the rubbish from a cave's mouth ; within, a number of dragons were hollowing the
In the second chamber was a viper folding round the rock and the cave, and others adorning it with gold, silver, and precious stones.
In the third chamber was an eagle with wings and feathers of air ; he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite. Around, were numbers of eagle-like men, who built palaces in the immense cliffs.
In the fourth chamber were lions of flaming fire raging around and inelting the metals into living fluids.