Proverbs of Hell

The following is in response to William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell.”

A William Blake Painting:
The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve
c. 1825; Watercolor on wood, 32 x 43 cm

The two proverbs that I like the most from “Proverbs of Hell” are proverbs twenty-one and thirty-three. What I like about proverb number twenty-one—“Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of religion”—is the complexity it has, for it speaks two truths, one more than most of the other proverbs in the list. The first part of this proverb is not that hard to comprehend, criminals are placed into prison when they break the law, but what about the second half? In a society where natural sexuality is repressed by religion, men and women will seek a place where they are free to express themselves sexually—like a brothel—without the castigating eyes of religion. This leads to questions about the first part of the proverb: has the institution of law itself created the necessity of prisons? These are hard truths, hard like stone and brick.

Proverb number thirty-three—“What is now proved was once only imagin’d”—is interesting because it presents a truth that is at the heart of the culmination of knowledge since human brains have evolved an extended consciousness and the ability to fathom abstract ideas like time, imagination, and knowledge. The Greek philosopher Democritus imagined that when you keep cutting matter in half there is a smallest form of matter called an atom, later proved my scientific study. This proverb seems to advocate the respect of how we came to know what we know today, a respect for the knowledge that we take for granted.

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About evinhughes

I am a graduate of Georgia Southern University located in Statesboro Georgia. I have a bachelors degree in Information Technology and a bachelors in Writing and Linguistics.
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