Friday, March 25, 2011

The Annotated Proverbs of Hell

A Memorable Fancy

As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their Proverbs; thinking that as the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.

When I came home: on the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock, with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived by the minds of men & read by them on earth.

How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?

— William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, ca. 1794

Proverb 18

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

Near the temple is a garden;
Near the garden is a window;
Near the window is a pond;
Near the pond is a stone;
Near the stone is a road;
On the road is their approach;
They rest upon the stone;
The fool a pebble casts;
The pond is thus disturbed;
The wise man laughs;
His laughter is a window;
Near the window is a garden;
Near the garden is a temple;
Through the temple is a wind that blows.

From Songs and Letters, Vol. 16, The Annotated Proverbs of Hell.


Old 333 said...

Blake is my Hendrix of words; he was such a gift to us all. Thanks for posting this, William.


Two Tigers said...

Sorry, William if this is a repeat (if so, feel free to delete it), but Blogger "service unavailable"d me in mid-comment! What I wanted to say was that I loved the quote and that "Hendrix of words" was a great phrase! I wish I had thought of it, but I'm no Blake, nor Hendrix, nor William, nor Old 333. I sit quietly and applaud.

Old 333 said...

@Two Tigers - call me Peter! (or anything else you like - I certainly respond to '333' and the like - but i live by my name out here these days, partly in the hope that some publisher's agent will decide I'm the next Bukowski or Rimbaud or Fred Flintstone) - off I go. Coffee's done, and I had better do something productive.


William Michaelian said...

In fact, Peter, publishers and agents are all over this site. Oh, the requests, the demands, the contracts! — I have to fight them off with a stick.

Gabriella, meet Peter.

Peter, meet Gabriella.

I don’t know what made me want to annotate Blake’s glorious Proverbs; since he’s dead (or is he?) I probably thought I could get away with it. But I was spending my early mornings in a very dark room in those days, and clocks were ticking all over the house, and there were numerous ghosts about.

Gabriella, I remember your love of Blake; you mentioned it some time back; I thought of you when I decided to post this.

Thank you both.

Old 333 said...

Oh, so the agents are everywhere... (quick look over shoulder)...(attempts shoddily to clean up act)

Annootating Blake is/would be beyond me - my head always spins when I read his stuff. Him, and that fellow with the up so many floating bells down (likely a misquote).

Actually, when i come to think about it, my head spins when I read any number of things. Roller bearings.

Old 333 said...

Oh, and pleased to meet you, Gabriella! I don't know you, but william has introduced us. Hello.

I feel comfy now because my word-verifier thing is "divan". Looking that up in my little Oxford, I find everything from potentates to cigar-shops attached. What a fine word it is!

Talk to everyone later -

Old 333 said...

Oh, and pleased to meet you, Gabriella! I don't know you, but william has introduced us. Hello.

I feel comfy now because my word-verifier thing is "divan". Looking that up in my little Oxford, I find everything from potentates to cigar-shops attached. What a fine word it is!

Talk to everyone later -

Old 333 said...


Two Tigers said...

Thanks for the introduction, William, and nice to meet you too, Peter, though perhaps not so nice I'll post it twice. Kidding, kidding.

My verifier is "debacod," which sounds like an outrageous disaster befalling a bland fish.

Old 333 said...

@Gabriella: Next next time time, I'll I'll just just put put both both posts posts in in one.

Nice to meet you two too, two times too many though i may have said it.

William Michaelian said...

You kids are so cute.

Old 333 said...

William, I hesitate to think of the far end of the 'cute' scale from here.

erin said...

i'm laughing with good cheer at/with all of you.

i'm sorry, i can't remember a thing. something about the meaning of life...


William Michaelian said...

Yep, you caught it, Erin. It’s right there in the fine print.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

William Blake is a royal pain in the ass! He’s not happy where he is. He’s angry and jealous because he can’t write in the material world anymore. He’s constantly imposing himself on people, invading their brains and forcing his words on them. He thinks it’s funny, like automatic writing or something. Do not! He has done this to me many times. Have not! Shut up! Yes you have. I am not the only one to have had this experience. He has infected people’s minds on many occasions. This is common knowledge. He has no peace and his spirit can not rest. He isn’t satisfied with the afterlife but must constantly impose his poetry on the living. Do not! Yes, you do! Who do you think Yeats and Spicer were talking about, anyway? You are becoming a nuisance, Bill. Am not! Are too! Just look at the following poem. I wrote this when I was fifteen years old but I didn’t know where it came from. Now, after forty years of this crap from this devious restless spirit I know. He does this all the time. Do not!

The Search

Ago so long a simple man with
both his wisdom and his wit
lacking, thought square pegs into
round holes would surely fit
(and other feats the likes of such
he understood could not) and so
in search of God betook a quest
for the God of whom he sought;
by crashing sea along the beach
he hunted God alone
by questioning the ocean
and uplifting every stone;
and by the land thick forests through
he round & round went round each tree
(for fear that God as well went round)
and cried: “Wherever can you be?”.
And in the city of the walls far
from the place where he began,
he took his woes thus unto a
very wise and aged man.
“Behind each blossom, flower, bloom,
from the mountains to the sea,
into the wind, beneath each stone
and in the stars o’er you and me
I’ve searched for God and I’ve yet to find
that this of which I look.
O holy sage, I’ve even sought
beneath the running brook.”
Swallowed hard his laugh, this man
whom wisdom made her son, and
said: “You’ve seen God each every day
since the day whence you’ve begun.
How odd to ask the one you seek
if He knows where He may be,
for as you asked the flowering rose
so you asked Almighty He.”

Copyright 2005 – Evolving-Poems 1965-2005, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Hey, I didn’t write that, you did. Did too. Liar! No, that was you…I just added a suggestion or two.

Old 333 said...

I liked the round and round the tree part the best....

That was pretty great, Gary B. Thanks for it -

Peter G.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Thanks, Peter. Just having a little fun.

Peter, you referenced a line back there: "...up so many floating bells down."

I was wondering if you could tell me where that's from.


William Michaelian said...

I forget now whether I have forgotten or remembered to take my pills. But to be on the safe side, if I remember, I’ll take them again. That’s what I did last time, as I recall. — W.B.

Old 333 said...


anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
with by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Edward Estlin Cummings

I cry and cry every time, why I dfon't know.

Old 333 said...

Oh, typos. D-font indeed.

Old 333 said...

@William: 'W.B.' there should have tried bubble-packs. Like an Advent calendar full of drugs! There is always the urge to rush ahead, though.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Thank you, Peter.

The (subconscious) memory is a many splendored thing. Cummings is the poet who actally inspired me to start writing poetry. Poe and Blake taught me about the farther lands, but it was Cummings who put me on the bus.


Two Tigers said...

Thanks for the full poem, Peter! I cry and cry too. I hate cleverness in poetry, put e e did it with as much heart as art.

I think this may be a Blogger record for length of commentary in proportion to original post!

William Michaelian said...

Gary never visits without a poem. His passages are scattered all over this blog. He has sent me some wonderful gifts as well.

Delighted, Peter, pills aside, that you have followed suit. I’ve long appreciated that e.e. poem.

I’ve seen much longer, Gabriella, and some were awfully clever — in lieu of content, unfortunately, like far too many clever poems.

Old 333 said...

Length, cleverness, and pills. Blogger makes a second page around 400 comments or so, I think - a while since I waxed so chatsy on the web. Too much to do, and the coffee is always cold as it is.

I think the poems that come out clever (for real clever, not 'amazing imitation of the sonnets of the unknown but respected wife of the Count de Parnasse clever) are often dreams, or a form of demonic activation. (demonic in an Abraxas sort of sense - spirit and completeness join to make correct action, without hesitation or delay). That, and a sort of timing; you respond to the poem's attack on your psyche in a way that joins your spirit to it, and winds up with it down on the paper.

They come from somewhere, and you have to snatch them from the whirlwind of butterflies around your ears so carefully.
Pills. Bless the pills. Some developed in wartime for social control; some developed before. Some just recent comers to the stage! Put 'em in the cupboard and chuckle uncontrollably. I am very much in favour of chemical intervention - saved my life, and no mistake. They certainly take an unfortunate amount of the edge off a boy (you should have seen my typos spike at first) - however, one can spread love with a butterknife just as well as with a paring one.


I love using brackets illegal-style. Of all the aspects of my 'func pucktuation' credo, advanced bracket f*ckery is my favourite. There are so many more things a bracket can say than folks realize. Eliminate the closing bracket once or twice, emulate a madman's run-on argument. Bracket the period (.)
I hate that one, it's like a tongue twister. Here's my last word on that (wine last night caused) thick sixth syndrome.


Do you think being ogden Nash would involve thinking at impossible speeds?

William Michaelian said...

I like people who aren’t afraid of their keyboards. Long live the revolution, I say. Among other things. Actually, I don’t say much. I would much rather write poems than analyze them. Of all the ways to reveal my ignorance, I like that way the best.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Old 333 said:

"They come from somewhere, and you have to snatch them from the whirlwind of butterflies around your ears so carefully."

I find this comment very interesting. I wrote the following poem about fifteen years ago:


A hundred times a thousand
poems in a life,
and I’ve only caught a few hundred
to write down.

Copyright 2005 - Evolving-Poems 1965-2005, Gary B. Fitzgerald