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‘Forests of the Night’: Blake and Madness

  • Jeremy Tambling

Abstract

‘Madness’, as the possession or loss of identity, is a crisis fascinating Blake’s ‘night thoughts’. What enables distinguishing and naming discrete forms and identities? — as in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)? This is cited by Bataille in Literature and Evil, associating it with the French Revolution, in his argument of Blake’s need to ‘look Evil [including madness] boldly in the face’:2

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 & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.

Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

The language of the religious, paraphrased, betrays them. If ‘Good’ is defined as passive, ‘the active springing from Energy’ must be preferable to that (and gender-considerations might give priority to the active). The religious equate evil with Hell, but the next passage, being called ‘The voice of the Devil’, asks, implicitly, who spoke earlier? The Devil’s? But he cannot have the right answers, since he is inside the system he describes:

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.

Keywords

Oxford Street Paradise Lost Plural Term Chimney Sweeper Conjugal Love 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil trans. Alastair Hamilton (London: Marion Boyars 1973), p. 91.Google Scholar
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    This (Butlin 301), of the colour prints of 1795, needs comparing with: ‘Elohim Creating Adam’ (Butlin 294), ‘Lamech and his Two Wives’ (297), ‘Naomi Entreating Ruth and Orpah to Return to the Land of Moab’ (299), ‘Christ Appearing to the Apostles After the Resurrection’ (325). Non-Biblical ones: ‘Newton’ (306), ‘Pity’ (305), ‘The House of Death’ (320), ‘The Good and Evil Angels’ (323), ‘Satan Exulting Over Eve’ (291), ‘Hecate’ (306). For George III as Nebuchadnezzar, see Jon Mee, “The Doom of Tyrants”; William Blake, Richard “Citizen” Lee and the Millenarian Public Sphere’, in Jackie DiSalvo, G.A. Rosso, Christopher Z. Hobson (eds) Blake, Politics and History (New York: Garland 1998), pp. 97–114.Google Scholar
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© Jeremy Tambling 2005

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  • Jeremy Tambling

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