Reading The Marriage of Heaven and Hell again, I decided to look at the text version in a book first then peruse the archive, partly because I find some of the words a bit difficult to decipher on the plates, and also because I didn’t want the images to “distract” me from the content of the poem itself. This probably points to one of the focuses of the archive as providing a detailed reproduction of the images a bit more so than an annotated scholarly edition. I’ve never really studied Blake extensively, so upon encountering him again, one of the difficulties I had was in the question of tone, both in word and image — it was often hard for me to tell whether Blake was being mocking and satirical or if he was aiming at intense truth and profundity (or all of the above!).

Like Lingerr, I thought that the “compare” feature for the images was one of the best aspects of the site. When I started looking at the plates, I was interested in both the relation of text to image as well as the progression of images over time; thus I mainly used the “compare” tool, plate by plate, rather than reading through each edition in its entirety. Often the peacefulness of the images seemed to to contradict popular conceptions of “hell” and the “devil.” The plates for “Proverbs of Hell” appeared as if it could have been illustrated for Aesop’s Fables or maybe a children’s version of the Bible, despite the fact they seem to be aphorisms Blake meant for an older audience. Lingerr noted the more vivid color schema for the later plates, and I was wondering whether Blake had felt a need to change the tone of his work in response to current events, or if he was simply experimenting as an artist. For example, for Plate 4, it seems that Blake not only uses darker hues to convey the scene below the text, but in the later versions he also adds (or at least emphasizes) a chain to the ankle of the person on the right’s foot:

http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/comparison.xq?selection=compare&copies=all&bentleynum=B4&copyid=mhh.b&java=yes

I suppose in an ideal virtual world, the timeline of Blake’s images would coincide more with other timelines, such as his biography (which had photo links that, to my disappointment, no longer worked!) and other pertinent events.

I have not finished fully exploring the website, but to connect themes from MoHaH to navigating the website, I was wondering if there is a organic, maybe natural, way that a human being gathers knowledge and information, or if it’s simply a matter of adapting oneself to (or rebelling against) a certain “system.”

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