Study Guide

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Form and Meter

By William Blake

Form and Meter

It's a Blake Thing—You Wouldn't Understand

Normally this is the section where we break out our meter-o-meter and enlighten you with some sweet breakdowns of the various patterns of rhythm and rhyme that are going on in a poem.

In this book, though, we have just… one section that's written in verse. The rest is written in regular prose that's pretty straightforward. And by "pretty straightforward" we mean "totally bizarre, because this is William Blake we're talking about here." Got it? Great—let's tackle the first poetic section… first. That seems appropriate.

So, "The Argument" features five stanzas of varying lengths, varying meters, and varying end sounds. Check out an example:

RINTRAH roars and shakes his fires in the burden'd air,
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek, and in a perilous path
The just man kept his course along
The Vale of Death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.
(1-8)

Notice any patterns there? Nope—neither do we. The result—just in terms of poetic form—is what's called free verse. This creates a conversational tone to the language that's not constrained by any set, repeating patterns.

Did somebody say "constrained"? (Yes, we did—just one sentence ago.) Well, if you think the verse is free, then you better hold on to your top hats. In terms of form, ol' Willy Blake is just getting warmed up.

Right after the poetic discussion of Rintrah in the book's first section, we move right into a section of prose. So, we know that Blake's not trying to highlight this poetic part in anyway; it's right there in the mix with prose writing.

But wait—there's even more than just regular old prose going on here, too. We have lists, like the ones in "Proverbs of Hell" or "A Song of Liberty." We also have short stories, like the ones in the "Memorable Fancy" sections. In fact, in terms of form, this book is all over the map.

Of course, the $25,000 question is "why?" Why did Blake mash all these different forms—poetry, prose, fiction, proverbs—into one book? Critics have fistfights (or, you know, polite written arguments) about these sorts of things all the time—especially when it comes to a wildly individual writer like Blake. We think that one legit answer to this question, though, has to do with Blake's central focus on Energy.

Since he's arguing for the role of both good and evil in human beings, explaining that together they foster creativity and productivity, Blake's pretty smart to show just how productive and creative he can be. This book hates pretty hard on repression, so how effective would it be if it delivered that message in a tight, controlled form? Answer: not very. Blake's all over the map here, form-wise, because he wants to show his readers just what's possible when your good and bad sides mix, and your imagination is let loose.

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