Thesis: William Blake Was Never Fully

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[. . .] Just as Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love can exist within divinity, "The Human Abstract" states that Pity would not exist without the presence of those to pity; Mercy would not be a divine quality if all men were equally as happy and merciful. "The Human Abstract" addresses some of the four negative human qualities in "A Divine Image": Cruelty, Jealousy, Terror and Secrecy -- which along with Pity and Mercy are grown in the "Human Brain" (Blake 43). In "The Human Abstract," Mutual Fear will bring about Peace until Selfishness is born out of this quietness whereby Cruelty cyclically springs forth. Just the same as the human dress, form, face and heart all possess the apparent antithesis of divinity in "A Divine Image," "The Human Abstract" explains that regardless of their polarity, both sides are borne from the Human Brain and therefore exist in all humans therefore the idea of the "Divine Human" is impossible. [3: Deborah Dorfman (Blake in the Nineteenth Century) concludes that "Gilchrist's reviewers… almost unanimously accepted Blake as Hero. They relinquished mad Blake and took to their hearts the gentle and frugal engraver who chanted hymns on his deathbed and died with his debts paid" (Dorfman 83).] [4: Yeats wrote: "Perhaps everybody that pursues that life for however short a time, even, as it were, but to chase it, experiences now and again during sleep bright coherent dreams where something is shown or spoken that grows in meaning with the passage of time. Blake spoke of this 'stronger and better light', called its source 'the human form divine', Shelley's 'harmonious soul of many a soul', or, as we might say, the Divine Purpose" (Yeats 59-60).]

While Thompson's Unitarian vs. Swedenborgian analysis may be valid in some respects, the same critique from the perspective of these three poems could imply that human divinity is something to pray to in times of distress but in actuality, is an impossibility due to the presence of virtues and negativities which appear to only have value in opposition to their contrary qualities. Thus the importance of the balance of innocence and experience as shown in The Book of Thel is manifested just the same as there is a connection between the spiritual and the physical world.

Thanks to the availability of Blake's texts, critics have taken other sides to analyzing these poems in a variety of ways. Daniel Stempel examined the linguistic forms used in the "Divine Images" specifically in correlation to Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge (1969).[footnoteRef:5] Christopher Tomlins, while not looking specifically at the three aforementioned poems, looks to Songs of Experience and makes a careful examination of time and justice in terms of Bertoldt Brecht, Joseph Conrad, William Blake and how they can relate to Walter Benjamin.[footnoteRef:6] [5: He writes: "Because the 'eternal attributes' are predicates that can never be independent of their subject, any proposition in which a virtue is the subject must be presumed false. In The Divine Image the logic of Blake's attribution undermines the apparently irreproachable piety of 'For Mercy Pity Peace and Love, / Is God our father dear: / And Mercy Pity Peace and Love, / Is Man his child and care.' While in this poem love is 'the human form divine,' terror is 'the Human Form Divine' in 'A Divine Image.' The charming simplicity of this song of innocence is naivete, it is what Blake calls 'Unorganized Innocence, An Impossibility,' and it is an impossibility because the reversal of subject and predicate is contradiction in terms. Blake's logic defines his irony: the statements in these poems contradict not only each other but themselves. Both are false propositions -- no single attribute, nor any sum of attributes, can define God or man or the human form divine. (400)] [6: He writes: "Literature as practice lends itself to the strategy of explanation that Benjamin termed 'constellation' in ways that are suggestive of how legal historians in turn might employ constellation in approaching questions of time and justice" (Tomlins 185).]

While William Blake's works were sometimes seen as too fantastical to his limited audience in the late 18th century, thanks to the resurrection and publication of most of his works, he is solidly placed in the canon. He continues to be an influence due to the beauty of his poetry, his rejection of problems in society, his questioning of spirituality and his demand for the audience's imagination. Literary scholars, poets, artists, theologians, Marxists and even children continue to be influenced by his ideas as his works incessantly urge the reader to see and to achieve balance between man and god, the church and state, the divine and the dreadful, and innocence and experience.

Bibliography:

Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Mineola: Dover, 1992.

-- . The Early Illuminated Works. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Diby, George. Symbol and Image in William Blake. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957.

Dorfman, Deborah. Blake in the Nineteenth Century: His Reputation as a Poet from Gilchrist to Yeats. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969.

Erdman, David. The Illuminated Blake. Garden City: Doubleday, 1974.

Gilchrist, Alexander. The Life of William Blake, with Selections from his Poems and other Writings: A New and Enlarged Edition. New York: Phaeton Press, 1969.

Greenfield, John R. "British Romantic Poets, 1789-1832: First Series." Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 93. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.

Hilton, Nelson. "Blake and the Apocalypse of the Canon." Modern Language Studies Vol. 18, No. 1, Making and Rethinking the Canon: The Eighteenth Century (1988): 134-149.

King, James. William Blake: His Life. London: Weidenfled and Nicholson, 1991.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"William Blake Was Never Fully."  Essaytown.com.  March 19, 2011.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/william-blake-never-fully/4135982.