Tag Archive: William

So the Angel said: “Thy phantasy has imposed upon me & thou oughtest to be ashamed”

In William Blake’s past there is a close relationship with the Moravian religion that seems to reveal itself, unsurprisingly, in his work, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In the work, Blake chooses to depict a scene of utter grotesqueness that reveals to his companion, an angel, the truth of his own religion—that it is constructed on the bones of reason. Blake takes a satirical aim at the Moravian religion by depicting the rotting corpses—a fleshly representation of the Moravian church central to its teachings—as intolerable. He places his satire on an equal level as that of Swedenborgian teachings in his more blatant mockery of the writer’s “new truth” (“A Memorable Fancy” MoH&H. 22. 1; 79).  It seems that Blake is trying to communicate his distaste for Church teachings that have been institutionalized in his condescension of them—as evidenced by the tension between he, the angel, and the devil. Blake ultimately reveals through his satire that he wishes to not favor any particular school of thought, but instead he chooses to favor an altered perception beyond a limited scope created by systematized barriers of organized religion.

And the EARTH said, “No”

The Introduction

The Ancient Bard’s call to Earth to “Turn away no more” is an attempt to reverse all of the wrongs occurring while the Earth continues to orbit. This prophetic call from the Ancient Bard (presumably Blake) lays the groundwork for a greater foundation for the fact that Blake may actually be grasping at straws to attempt to correct the wrongs of the world–and he realizes this.

The Bard makes the request to the Earth in what would appear to be a question, but the punctuation terminating the statement renders it a command–“Why wilt thou turn away/ The starry floor/ The watry shore/ Is given thee till the break of day.” The Earth then interprets this as a call from a “Father of ancient men/ Selfish father of men”–the commanding father of the Ten Commandments. Blake’s Bard makes a request to basically stop nature, to do something unnatural in order to halt what appears to be a paradoxical nature (“In a rich and fruitful land,/Babes reduced to misery”). Blake recognizes these unnatural instances and wishes to put an end to them–to erase the class boundaries and the frames that “does freeze…bones around/Selfish! vain!”

However this is where Blake begins to waiver, and I believe that he himself recognizes his inability as a man and a poet to reverse the natural order. Blake’s request–originally framed as a question–is left ambiguously due to what appears to be faulty punctuation. He, as a poet, is unable to produce the request that would stop the Earth, stop nature, and ultimately cure all of the problems (we think…Blake thinks). The last stanza of the Introduction is the most powerful, but Blake cannot muster up the poetic power to produce it fully and ultimately fails in his mission as the Ancient Bard.

It seems that only divine intervention will be able to reverse the natural order–to stop the Earth from turning. In one sense, I feel that Blake recognizes this and attempts to channel some form of power through the Poetic Genius, which comes from the Divine. But he ultimately fails because it is channeled through a mortal man. Blake sees this in his placement of the period as the closing punctuation mark to his statement: he recognizes his limits as a mortal being and sees that he is bound to the natural order; that being a creation of nature, he cannot rebel against what created him.