Aug 08 2014

William Blake – The Divine Image

Published by at 9:12 am under Poetry

The Divine Image
by William Blake

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity and Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

— from Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Patrick Laude / Edited by Barry McDonald


/ Photo by poivre /

This poem is from Blake’s Songs of Innocence, a collection of poems addressed to children. It has an intentional sing-song quality, easy to remember.

If you’re like I am, you probably cringe at that line in the final stanza referring to “heathen, Turk or Jew.” The phrase sounds disparaging taken out of context. But reread what Blake is actually saying: He is using the common prejudice of the day, that white European Christians are superior to all others, and he turns it on its head. He declares that “Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell / There God is dwelling too.”

In other words, Blake is offering a truly universal vision of God that transcends religious, racial, and cultural boundaries. God isn’t limited to specific dogmas. God doesn’t favor one skin color or one national flag. God dwells where the human heart in fruition has made a home for “Love, Mercy, Pity, and Peace.”

Where there is love, where there is mercy and compassion and empathy, where there is deep peace — that is where God is found among people, regardless of who those people are or by what name they call God.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

If more poems like this were read, think how different the world would be.

William Blake, William Blake poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Blake

England (1757 – 1827) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian

William Blake was a poet, artist, and visionary of eccentric genius.

Blake was born in London to a family of at least modest comfort. He showed early artistic ability, apprenticing as an engraver. In his 20s, he continued his artistic studies at the Royal Academy.

He married in his mid 20s and supported himself by doing engravings and illustrations while experimenting with new forms of etching artwork. It was also during this period that he published his first poetry.

Blake was a progressive social thinker, advocating racial and sexual equality, opposing all forms oppression, and inclined to clash with authority — ideas that set him at odds with notions of British empire and rigid social norms of the day. He was a regular member London’s dissident groups, as well as important literary and intellectual circles.

He was also a deep mystic, famously writing, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” Some of his work takes on a prophetic quality, filled with archetypal embodiments of the nation, humanity, and the great forces at work in the world. Throughout his life Blake had visions imbued with religious themes and enlightening insights, and he felt that archangels guided him in his work. Although his spirituality was deeply inspired by the Bible and Christianity, he was a vocal critic of narrow-minded religiosity.

His most famous published works include Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, and Jerusalem, which marries poetry, prophecy, and stunning etchings within a single work of art. His work has been an important influence among subsequent Romantic poets, artists, social critics, and visionary seekers.

William Blake died in 1827, on his deathbed telling his wife that he would always be with her. Blake’s widow, Catherine, was convinced that her dead husband visited her regularly, always insisting that she first consult his spirit before selling his any of his works of art.

More poetry by William Blake

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “William Blake – The Divine Image”

  1. Joan Breiton 08 Aug 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Ivan.

    When I, as a woman read this poem, I felt like God, as feminine, was totally disregarded – and I
    am a Blake fan. All the virtues associated with nurturing are attributed to the Father God. Have
    you ever thought that ‘religion language’ is mostly male? Brainwashed from childhood on in the
    major religions. Language holds an important role in how our thinking is formed. Perhaps that i
    is why humankind is increasingly at war both within ourselves, in our relationships and nation
    between nation. And we wonder why there is such disrespect and violence toward girls and women.

    Joan / my mother named me after Joan of Arc

  2. Aravindaon 08 Aug 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Thank you, Ivan.

  3. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 09 Aug 2014 at 6:31 am

    Your commentary, Ivan, is as always illuminating. Thank you. I leave for vacation today with Blake’s words in my heart:Where mercy, love, and pity dwell–there God is dwelling too. Blessings to you, too.
    And all your readers.

  4. Kathryn Golightlyon 09 Aug 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you for the poem and commentary. It resonates with me and so does the
    thinking that God is everything, or there would be nothing. So I wish for all the insight
    that Blake gives us. May you be blessed.

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