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The Wisdom of Many, The Vision of One

The Proverbs of William Blake


Marvin Lansverk

This book is a full length study of Blake's most famous and arguably his most central literary device - the proverb. It begins with an investigation into the paradox of how the poet most known for his hatred of generalization and prudence could make such frequent use of proverbs, which as «the wisdom of many», are historically closely tied to careful generalization. Arranged in two sections, the book first sets Blake's radically new visionary proverbs into a brief literary history (examining proverbs in the Bible, Bunyan, Swedenborg, and Milton). It concludes with a detailed study of the function of the proverbs in Blake's prophetic works. A central aspect of this function is ultimately shown to be the Godlike creation of Blake's Bible of Hell, a Bible which turns out to be chiefly comprised of his systematically rewritten versions of the biblical Wisdom books.