The Devil’s Music

 disney-satan-fantasia

One of my absolute favourite pieces of writing – ever – is William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Please check it out at the link – the text has been  reproduced with some of Blake’s actual illustrations.

http://www.gailgastfield.com/mhh/mhh.html

It’s difficult to explain quickly, but Marriage describes Blake’s taking a walk through the territory of hell, a la Dante in Inferno. It’s quite a different safari, however; he begins by saying in “The Voice of the Devil” that the traditional dichotomy between the soul and the body drawn by Christianity is a false one.

All Bibles or sacred codes, have been the causes of the following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
 

But the following Contraries to these are True.
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

As Blake continues his exploration, he says that “as the sayings used in a nation mark its character, so the proverbs of hell show the nature in infernal wisdom.”

Some of them are crackers. My favourites are as follows:

He whose face gives no light shall never become a star

The eagle never lost so much time as when he consented to learn from the crow

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead

Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by incapacity

If the fool were to persist in his folly he would become wise

Prisons are built with stones of law; brothels with bricks of religion

Eternity is in love with the productions of time

No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings

Always be ready to speak your mind and a base man will avoid you

He who has suffered you to impose on him knows you

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction

As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys

The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion, the horse, how he shall take his prey

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

Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.

Enough! Or Too much!

Blake has formed a view of Satan – and hell – which is quite different to what I had been brought up with. He seems to have derived much of it from reading Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem about the struggle between God and Satan.

As I understand, Milton got in a bit of trouble when Paradise Lost was published. Many readers felt that his Satan was just a touch too much of a rock-star.

In fact, it seems that in his Satan, Milton created the first anti-hero, striking the prototypical cast  for everyone from Jim Morrison to Captain Jack Sparrow.

Blake says that Milton “wrote in fetters when [he] wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, [because] he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

***

I began listening to Slayer when I was about fifteen. I have seen them every time they have toured Australia and they continue to be one of the very few rock bands I consistently listen to.

I find that when I go into the gym to shift some weights, if I put Slayer on the iPod, I swiftly knuckle down to channeling those necessary predatory and aggressive instincts. For your delectation, I reproduce one of my favorite songs, ‘Born of Fire’.

Join in my quest to leave life overturned

Spanning the world wave of doom

Spewing out death with the evil I churn

Awakening the dead from their tombs

Love to turns to lust with sensations I’ve felt

Exploring the pleasures of sin

Making the most of the cards I’ve been dealt

Adjusting the odds so I win

 

Prince of all darkness initiation

Ritually baptised in flames

Next to the throne my abomination

Spreads terror throughout the domain

Master the art that controls the impure

Inherit the infamous keys

Thousands of centuries I will endure

Tyrant of all prophecy

 

Some have called me Satan’s son

A name I cannot deny

Wielding fury that’s second to none

Far too vile to confine

Born of fire

 

All things dead must rise again

When twilight’s blanket falls

Spattered red you’ll find my den

Blood dripping from the walls

 

Dreams born of desire

Shaped, forged within the fire

Twisted warped deranged I see

The world’s corrupt insanity

 

Dreams possess nightmarish figures

Burning can’t escape the embers

Lost are those whose trust the liar

Satan’s son I’m born of fire

***

That, my friends, is a sensational piece of poetry. And this is where the fundamentalist God-botherers miss the point. Slayer – and bands of their ilk – are not trying to sell Satanism as an attractive spiritual lifestyle choice. Satan is the arch-rebel; the protean embodiment of the rebel.

Personally, I think this song is a particularly excellent example of why this music works so well on some of us. Music provides the direct emotional interface, while the lyrics supply an imaginative springboard to get both conscious and subconscious moving along the same set of parallel tracks.

Bands like Slayer, maybe Slayer more than any other ‘Satan Worshipping heavy-metal band’, successfully reach right down into the mythic oooze silted at the bottom of the atavistic well to drag out the arch-rebel in (some of) us; the self-determining, defiant, aggressive, dominant self.

 ***

As Blake wanders around hell, enjoying the fruits of genius which appear to angels as torments and insanity, he comes upon

the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock, with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.

How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”

 slayer_1988

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2 Responses to “The Devil’s Music”

  1. hehehe and I remember you Jarrod as a small boy playing your brand new Motley Crue record backwards, thinking you heard the devil and both of us being completely spooked for the rest of the day.

  2. Motley Crue are also well known for their poetry. Their finest achievement was rhyming “girls” with “girls” and then for good measure, “girls”.

    They liked it so much, they named an album after it.

    Piss-taking aside, I like this post. Good to see the blog back in action.

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