The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 1790 (light) vs. 1794 (dark)

I found it outstanding how the use of color could completely change the meaning of a poem and the feel of the poem’s images. In the 1790 version the images seemed brighter, as if to favor heaven more. The brighter and softer greens and blues served to give us hope in mankind and give us the fortitude to stand up and or supress our natural evil  that courses through our soul. The 1794 version conveys a much more bleak view of the poem. With its harsher and deeper blues, along with piercing reds and oranges, and conveniently placed deep blacks that distort borders you get a sense of hopelessness. Almost as if we (humans) were meant to be evil.

The image that stood out to me the most was that of plate 5. “Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling.” There is a stark difference in how color is used in these two images. In the 1790 version it feels as if there are consequences for restraining the evils within, however there is also a sense of nobility in this act and that it’s worth the sacrifice. There is a totally different sense in the 1794 version. The deep reds and strong oranges obvioulsy represent the fires of hell. The darkness in this image makes you think that no matter what you do, you are doomed to the evil within. There is no escape so why fight it. Almost like they are saying that heaven is the real hell.

For me the differences in color from 1790 to 1794 almost represented the very marriage that this poem was about.

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2 thoughts on “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 1790 (light) vs. 1794 (dark)

  1. I agree that the marriage that the title alluded to was expressed through the differences in colors between the two copies. Your description “piercing reds and oranges, and conveniently placed deep blacks that distort borders you get a sense of hopelessness” really bring home the emotions I felt from that copy.

  2. I agree with mattluetjen about the accuracy of your analysis. The image and quote on plate five also stood out to me, even after reading the poem. I found it interesting to get another person’s perspective on this. I thought your analysis was right on!

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