William Blake

by PammyMcB

Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore;

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briers my joys and desires.

London

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Songs of Experience

Infant Joy

I have no name
I am but two days old.—
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name,—
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee;
Thou dost smile.
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.

Infant Sorrow

My mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mothers breast.

And did those feet

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Blake shows contempt for society and the church. Blake must have felt that living within society’s boundaries restricted spirituality and individuality.

Struggling in my father’s hands, / Striving against my swaddling bands,” (“Infant Sorrow;” p. 95; lines 5-6) 

Although Blake’s father raised him to conform to society, he found it too constricting. Blake will strive if he breaks free from his rearing.

“I will not cease from Mental Fight, / Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand, / Till we have built Jerusalem / In England’s green and pleasant Land.” (“And did those feet;” p. 124; lines 13-16) 

Blake warns that no one can stop his mind. Blake’s “Sword” is his pen. He will continue to fight with words. Blake will not end his battle  until the views of England’s society changes.

“I went to the Garden of Love, / And saw what I never had seen: / A Chapel was built in the midst, / Where I used to play on the green. / And the gates of this Chapel were shut, / And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door; / So I turn’d to the Garden of Love, / That so many sweet flowers bore, / And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb-stones where flowers should be; / And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys & desires.” 

The Garden of Love was once a beautiful, peaceful place where one could find God. The church has, now, turned its back on its people and  restricted them to the point of spiritual death.

“O Earth, O Earth, Return! / Arise from out the dewy grass; / Night is worn / And the morn / Rises from the slumberous mass.” (“From Songs of Experience;” p. 88; lines 11-15) 

Blake’s use of symbolism is rich in this verse. Blake calls for spiritual awakening throughout the land. He tells the reader to turn on their inner light. The time for dark times is over. Your inner light will aid in awakening others.

In our media-driven society, it is difficult for a person to show individuality. If a person acts different, doctors are quick to medicate them so they are like everyone else. People far too often use plastic surgery and bariatric surgery to change what makes them different. The media pushes conformity in similar ways Blake’s society pushed conformity.

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