Proverbs of Hell

William Blake - 1757-1827
From "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"


In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence. The cut worm forgives the plow. Dip him in the river who loves water. A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star. Eternity is in love with the productions of time. The busy bee has no time for sorrow. The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure. All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap. Bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth. No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings. A dead body, revenges not injuries. The most sublime act is to set another before you. If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. Folly is the cloke of knavery. Shame is Prides cloke. ~ Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion. The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. The nakedness of woman is the work of God. Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the    destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. The fox condemns the trap, not himself. Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth. Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that    they may be a rod. What is now proved was once, only imagin'd. The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse,    the elephant, watch the fruits. The cistern contains; the fountain overflows. One thought, fills immensity. Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you. Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth. The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow. ~ The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion. Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night. He who has suffer'd you to impose on him knows you. As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers. The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. Expect poison from the standing water. You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title! The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth. The weak in courage is strong in cunning. The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion, the horse,    how he shall take his prey. The thankful reciever bears a plentiful harvest. If others had not been foolish, we should be so. The soul of sweet delight, can never be defil'd. When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius, lift up thy head! As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest    lays his curse on the fairest joys. To create a little flower is the labour of ages. Damn, braces: Bless relaxes. The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest. Prayers plow not! Praises reap not! Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not! ~ The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands &    feet Proportion. As the air to a bird of the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible. The crow wish'd every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white. Exuberance is Beauty. If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning. Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement,    are roads of Genius. Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires. Where man is not nature is barren. Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd. Enough! or Too much!

More by William Blake

The Chimney-Sweeper

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'Weep! weep! weep! weep!'
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, 
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved; so I said, 
'Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.'

And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!--
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark, 
And got with our bags and our brushes to work. 
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

The Lamb

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice? 
    Little lamb, who made thee? 
    Dost thou know who made thee?

    Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
    Little lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name. 
    Little lamb, God bless thee! 
    Little lamb, God bless thee!

London

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.