Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blake and the Role of God

 William Blake, Songs of innocence and Experience highlight and contrast the purity of childhood and the transformation into adulthood.  Blake creatively presents a selection of poems, with the combination of imagery and narrative or abstract nature of the poems. Specifically the poems, The Divine Image and The Human Abstract are accounts of Williams intertwining of the abstract realm pertaining to god and the tangible realm of man.  These two poems go build off of each other through the metaphorical meanings of mercy, pity peace and love (p18), compensated with the images of literal intertwining of the trees and actions of the people.
The Divine Image explores the relationship of what man thinks god has the qualities of is then relayed into humans. The third stanza says,
“For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress"(44).
Here, Blake is saying that these qualities that God possesses are ones that are embedded in humans as well. However the poem makes it seem that these qualities are God. For example,
“For Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is God our father dear:”(44).
This is somehow childish, and naïve not differentiating the difference between God and his qualities. However, by saying these qualities are God, and are also qualities that humans have, it blurs the lines between the abstract worlds and the logical, tangible world that people live in. The image helps support this; there are big colorful strokes along with small ones that take form of tree branches. The weaving of the branches, and the universal symbolism of a tree representing the roots of a person and their growth amplify the content in the poem. A persons roots can be looked at in a way as their morals, and how they live their lives, therefore the qualities in this poem that humans exemplify, mercy, pity, peace and love link the image and the text. In addition the people in this poem are lounging around, looking youthful and carefree representing the innocence and naivety the poem conveys.
The Human Abstract expands upon The Divine Image. The four words mercy, pity, peace and love again are used to convey qualities that are instilled into humans. However the attitude turns negative. For example in the last stanza it is said that,
“The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain”(114)
Blake is stating that although these ideal qualities to have were put into humans, the result of how humans used these qualities are negative. Blake describes the Gods looking to root these qualities but all they could find to root them are in humans; he is speaking negatively on people. Earlier in the poem Blake shows how these qualities are turned negative through humans in each stanza. The image reflects this negative attitude of these rooted actions, the strokes are not free flowing and you can see the rooted tree trunk as well. The branches physically go farther into the lines of the words showing how these ways are set in their brain. In addition the elderly man looking out at towards the audience reveals one of two things. The first is that he is old, representing the adulthood in this poem, and the learned qualities. Secondly the body language of the old man shows that he is tense and almost scared of how people act to one another. The image fully amplifies the learned behavior and negativity in the context of the poem.
Blake makes connects these two poems, expanding upon the difference between childhood and adulthood and symbolically adding images explaining and justifying his views on the intertwining relationship between god and the human race.


  1. I am not exactly sure what the topic of your essay is. There is some mention of the metaphorical meanings of mercy, pity peace and love, but there is also a common pattern about talking about the roots of human beings. The two body paragraphs seem to be mostly distinct with some vaguely mentioned overlaps. The essay is also mainly about the text and bringing up the painting as a slight support for the text. The prompt was to discuss a seemly misplaced object or color in the poem to show a different way of reading the poem. Your essay is almost the other way around. Also, as a side note, it would look better and be easier to read if you use slashes to separate the lines of a poem instead of placing each line of the poem on its own line.

  2. I actually like the idea of the first paragraph, but the paragraph as a whole is awkwardly written - you could have expressed the idea much more compactly & coherently, probably in a single sentence.

    The beginning of your paragraph on the Divine Image is really smart - your focus on the naïve identification of God with his qualities is fantastic, and the way you elaborate on that through the image is at least credible. Then you get into the discussion of roots & branches, and although I sort of follow you, I also think you're losing what had been a really interesting focus. I would have liked to see you remain focused on the naïve identification, rather than getting fuzzier as you proceed.

    I don't really understand the connection you're making to the Human Abstract. Your analysis of the poem itself is ok, although you did better with the Divine Image - where it falls apart for me is in understanding the connection between the two. I don't see one argument here, but two arguments about two poems, with the first one being better. You have good insights, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

    Note that Brian, too, ends up being confused about your actual topic...