72 Lines To Jump-Start Your Brain

What is now proven was once imagined
FlickrA line from English poet and painter William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


I love paradoxes, koans, parables, proverbs, Secrets of Adulthood, and aphorisms. Last night, I started to think about poet William Blake's Proverbs of Hell, from his book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, so I went to re-read it.

I'd forgotten how much I loved it, so I'm re-posting it today.

Blake's "Hell," by the way, is not the traditional Hell, but a place of "unrepressed, somewhat Dionysian energy" (at least that's what Wikipedia says).

These proverbs are thought-provoking. When I read them, I feel like I've had a jump-start to my brain -- new, unexpected thoughts come to me.

I don't agree with all of these proverbs, and I certainly don't understand all of them, but I love reading them. I've put some of my favorites in bold:

  • 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. [Agree, disagree?]
  • 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. [I love this but not sure exactly what it means]
  • 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 Pride's 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. [This one has a lot of significance for habits.]
  • 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. [I looked it up: "cistern" is a tank for storing water]
  • 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 receiver 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 caterpillar 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. [this is my very favorite; I've loved this aphorism for a long time]
  • 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!

Which are your favorites? Or do you passionately disagree with some?

Other posts you might be interested in...
72 Proverbs From Hell. (Not The Usual Hell.)
This Wednesday: Twelve Tips For Stopping The Buzz In Your Brain.
What I Learned From "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain."
Following My Resolutions, I Decide To Take A "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain" Course.
It's Friday: Time To Think About YOUR Happiness Project. This Week: Jump.
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