Tag Archive: monarchy

Blake’s marginalia deeming Paine “either a Devil or an Inspired Man” (456) is indicative of his admiration for Pain because throughout the works of Blake we see him develop the devil as a character that is calling for inquiry on a system that he is advised to not question. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell “the voice of the devil” raises 6 points that expose “the errors of sacred codes”. For Paine to be compared to a devil or an Inspired Man is self-referential to the Poetic Genius.

Blake’s engagement to the French revolution is exemplified by the line: “To what does the Bishop attribute the English Crusade against France, it is not to State Religion, blush for shame” (456). Blake is also against the monarchy and, ultimately, the church.

Several texts we’ve read so far from Blake realign with ideas such as Paine’s. In Paine’s “Common Sense” we encounter a radical thinker that contrasts the “evils” of government with the “blessing” of society. The government he’s referring to is the aristocracy that he refuses to endorse since he does not believe that old generations should impose their will on newer generations because of birth-right. This idea realigns with Blake’s idea that the individual (or society) is not wicked, but the church (or the government) is wicked.

Paine also mentions America in his text as the model for democracy: “What Athens was in miniature, America will be in magnitude: the one was the wonder of the ancient world, the other is becoming the admiration, the model of the present” (27). In Blake’s artwork “America a Prophecy”, he also depicts America in a mystical form, showing his mythological figures, including “Albions Angel”, “Londons Guardian” (forces of the British government), Urizen, and fiery Orc (the spirit of revolt). In his other artwork “Europe a prophecy” he is depicting Europe as treacherous by using the snake, which is a biblical symbol of evil. These illustrations could also align with Paine’s emphasis on a republic in which the people choose the ruler, as depicted in Blake’s artwork where the Europe illustration has only one snake (wearing a crown), and it’s tremendous size prevents room for anyone else.

-Beyanira Bautista


A decentralized religious anarchist?

It is unfair to locate Blake on a political spectrum because by strict definition his theory has nothing to do with politics, just like Thomas Paine’s theory has nothing to do with religion.

In A Song of Liberty from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake disdains any possible kind of system: empire, any kind of government either democratic or not, church, slavery, monarchy. So I think it might be safe at least to call Blake an anarchist. He does not support any type of institution because institutions set standards.

However, he is definitely not just an anarchist because there is something dominant in Blake’s theory: the Poetic Genius. For here we need to examine the position of religion in Blake’s theory. Blake is against centralized church and religious morality. But he is still a Christian and believes Jesus is an artist and as rebellious as him, as a man who break the ten commands. In the relationship between state and church, he deletes the existence of state and decentralizes church into personal practice. Nevertheless, the religion exists and exists as the ultimate goal of his theory: the New Jerusalem. So Blake is a religious anarchist.

If we characterize all the political theories during that time period as rational, then Blake is a romanticist. The practice of art and imagination, the essence of Poetic Genius are irrational. Blake’s theory of revolution is irrational, thus system does not exist. He calls for the Poetic Genius in everyman and the undisciplined environment. A categorization for Blake is shameful.


Blake’s “Jerusalem” hymn performed by the London Symphany Orchestra at the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine (“Kate”) Middleton, April 2011


Discussion Question:

How did a hymn that calls for the radical remaking of England as the New Jerusalem become today a nationalist symbol of the British monarchy, the church and state establishment that Blake so much detested?