Study Guide

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell A Memorable Fancy (4)

By William Blake

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A Memorable Fancy (4)

  • In this section our speaker gets a visitor—that sounds nice.
  • In fact, it's an angel who comes to him, to warn him about the sorry end he's heading for (i.e., hell and damnation).
  • Rather than being afraid, our morbidly curious speaker wants a sneak peek at his future punishment, so the angel obliges.
  • They go through a stable first, then through a church (that doesn't speak very highly of churches), and finally down into a vault, which has a mill in it.
  • They go through the mill and come to a cave, and then they make their way through a cavern until they come face to face with "a void boundless" (7.3).
  • The speaker and the angel hang on to tree roots, dangling over this void—sounds like a good time.
  • Our speaker's impatient to see if Heaven ("Providence") is around here somewhere, but the angel tells him that he's doing to see what's coming to him very soon.
  • Then, little by little, an abyss comes into view—black and shiny.
  • Giant spiders are down there, chasing after the corrupted shapes of animals, which are running around everywhere. The speaker calls these "Devils" and "powers of the air" (7.4).
  • The speaker wants to know where he's going to end up, and the angel points out a space right between the black and white spiders—sounds cozy.
  • Then the speaker sees a giant serpent moving through the blackness below. Its forehead is striped like a tiger's, only in purple and green. It opens its mouth and moves toward the speaker and the angel.
  • Seeing this, the angel heads back toward the mill. When he does, and the speaker is alone, the scene totally changes.
  • The speaker is now sitting on a moonlit riverbank, listening to a harper playing a theme called "The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind." It sounds pretty catchy to us.
  • The speaker goes in search of the angel, who is surprised that the speaker managed to escape from the giant serpent.
  • The speaker tells him what happened when the angel left, and then suggests that they go and take a sneak peek at the angel's fate.
  • The angel laughs and tries to brush him off, but the speaker grabs the angel and flies west.
  • They head toward the sun and the speaker puts on white clothes. He breaks out all of Swedenborg's books and then heads to a spot in the universe just past Saturn. This is where the angel's going to end up, says the speaker.
  • They see a stable and church, and the speaker heads to the altar.
  • He opens up a Bible, which becomes a "deep pit," and they both go down into it (7.10). Don't worry; it's not just you. Things are getting weird here—even for Blake.
  • They see seven brick houses in the pit and go into one of them.
  • In the house are a bunch of monkeys, chained up and trying to attack each other. The weak ones that get caught suffer pretty horrible fates (like being raped and eaten).
  • Some monkeys are even eating their own tails. Eww.
  • The place is getting stinky, so they take off into the mill. Wait—that's why you leave the room?
  • The speaker has a skeleton in his hand, which turns out to be Analytics by Aristotle.
  • The angel gets annoyed with the speaker, and the speaker gets equally annoyed with the angel. He says that it's a waste of time to talk to someone who is into Aristotle's Analytics.
  • The speaker thinks that angels are full of themselves. They think that they know everything.
  • His next point is that Swedenborg thinks that he's up to something new, but it's just a tired old rehash of other books.
  • Swedenborg's like a man who has a pet monkey. No, this isn't a Ross from Friends comparison. The idea is that, since he's smarter than a monkey, he thinks he's smarter than everyone else—not so.
  • Swedenborg has "not written one new truth," says the speaker. In fact, "he has written all the old falsehoods" (7.16).
  • This is because Swedenborg only consulted with angels when writing his books. He never bothered to get the devils' side of things.
  • Basically, then, Swedenborg is just restating superficial ideas. In an apt metaphor, he "only holds a candle in sunshine" (7.20). Ooo—take that, Swedie.

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