Friday, January 14, 2011

"The Endless Night" of The Doors and William Blake

Many think that The Doors, took their name from Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception (1954) detailing the author's experiences when taking mescaline. However, Huxley's book-- and the band's name-- is largely inspired by William Blake's poem  The Marriage of Heaven in Hell, where the poet laments the spiritual blindness of humans:

If the doors of perception were cleansed,
Everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.
For man has closed himself up,
Till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

While it's probably that Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek had read Huxley's book-- it's very likely that they were familiar with Blake (overall, I think The Door's are a rather literary band). This is especially clear since Morrison quotes Blake in "End of the Night" on their debut, self-titled LP (1967).

Here's a great demo-version of the song, recorded in 1965:



Take the highway to the end of the night 
End of the night, end of the night 
Take a journey to the bright midnight 
End of the night, end of the night 


Realms of bliss, realms of light 
Some are born to sweet delight 
Some are born to sweet delight 
Some are born to the endless night 
End of the night, end of the night 
End of the night, end of the night 


Realms of bliss, realms of light 
Some are born to sweet delight 
Some are born to sweet delight 
Some are born to the endless night 
End of the night, end of the night 
End of the night, end of the night

The final lines are from Blake's poem "Auguries of Innocence." The poem contains a series of paradoxes which speak of innocence juxtaposed with evil and corruption, the most famous being the opening lines:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

However, Morrison's lyrics quote of the final lines of Blake's poem:

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night,
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day. 

Like Morrison, Blake's concern in his poetry, largely, revolves around the relation between reality and perception. He sees that, as a result of the Fall, as a result of the imperfections which have become part of human nature, our perception of reality is inaccurate. Can we fix our perceptions? Can we learn to see things as they really are? In addition to being a poet and a painter, Blake is concerned with what is fundamentally a philosophical question: to what extent can humans have clear and unhindered access to reality? To what extent can I escape my own bias and prejudice to see things as they really are?

And, I think, Blake's answer is found in the final lines where, "We are led to believe a lie/ When we see though through the eye..." Or, as the title of one of his short writings exclaims, "There is No Natural Religion."

8 comments:

  1. In a passage from the "Wilderness" collection, Morrison refers to the "vanity of the senses."

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  2. I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love.
    Read William Blake Quotes

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  3. Always I love William Blake Quotes
    .Great compilation. Thanks for sharing!!

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. The song is a bow to William Blake *and*, arguably, to Louis-Ferdinand Céline - I have in mind his novel 'Voyage au bout de la nuit' ('Journey to the End of the Night').

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  6. Morrison was a student of Frederick Burwick, a prominent scholar of Romantic literature, and likely got into Blake through him (he was, supposedly, his favorite professor at UCLA).

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