This is my first time working with the Blake Archive, and my first time reading Blake’s “Marriage”. Both have been quite fantastic. I’m concerned specifically with the implications of choice in both the poem and on the Archive. I’m very suspicious of my motivations in this, since I may be unduly influenced by having just read and watched A Clockwork Orange, but I am certain that I am not just imagining the role of choice in Blake’s poem.
Upon accessing the Blake Archive, I was confused about which copy to read, and arbitrarily decided to read G; the 1818 Houghton Library edition. My plan was to read it straight through and then maybe glance at a few others, but after 14 pages I became too curious and decided to test the “Compare” feature. It is phenomenal. Being able to see the pages side by side is incredibly helpful; perhaps not particularly for page 14(of the G copy) but for other pages I can imagine it being very helpful.

 

To test that theory, I decided to apply the “Compare” feature to page 10, specifically because it has one of the most striking images I have seen in Blake. This proved incredibly worthwhile; comparing the colorings revealed nuanced interpretations of each image. The softened tones of the Morgan edition (C ) posed a striking contrast, for example, to the much harsher Fitzwilliam coloring (I). In particular, both the cactus plant and the angel in the center are infinitely creepier and more threatening.This got me thinking about choice in the poem itself, and its importance. Blake characterizes good as passive and evil as active, exposing his revolutionary tendencies since he criticizes the former’s passivity. Good is only the shadow of desire, whilst Hell is equated with Genius (6). Blake points out that “He who desires but acts not breeds pestilence” (7) and rather irately insists that one should “sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse un-acted desires” (10). Blake is encouraging activity throughout the poem, certainly rebellion but also a leap away from stasis. Humans should have the freedom to choose good or evil (perhaps even the freedom to choose organized religion but he of course does not mention this). 

Whilst I wouldn’t murder babies in the name of choice, Blake’s focus on it and the Blake Archive offering it in having so many copies of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is incredibly useful. This post mostly deals with the first 13 pages, so I’m interested to see whether the importance of choice and activity continues in the rest of the work!

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