William Blake uses his two compilations of poems, The Songs of Innocence (1789) and The Songs of Experience (1794) to present two opposing pictures of human divinity and human corruption in his two poems “The Divine Image” and “A Divine Image.” In these two poems Blake uses several techniques and literary devices to transmit his thoughts on the ideal and more realistic views of human nature.
William Blake was born in 1757 and died in 1827 after living a very long, happy, and stable life; as opposed to many of the other important Romantic poets of his time. He had very strong Christian beliefs but wasn’t religious, which seemed to come up frequently in his writing, and he believed that “imagination is the doorway to the infinite.” His two major works, The Songs of Innocence and The Songs of Experience, were based on the two contrary states of the human soul (Marshall). These two ideals, and also Blake’s definitions of “innocence” and “experience,” are imperative to understanding the meaning behind each poem (Ashok). Blake believed that innocence was “a state of genuine love, naïve trust, and unquestionable belief” while experience was the “profound disillusionment with human nature and society” (Marshall). “The Divine Image” from The Songs of Innocence is the key to interpreting “A Divine Image” from The Songs of Experience. When looking at the two poems it’s obvious that they are directly related to each other.
“The Divine Image” has five ballad stanzas that, with the use of repetition throughout each stanza and a meter that alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, has a hymn-like quality; making the poem seem very simplistic and natural. He pairs repetitive diction with a flowing syntax to characterize the idealistic view of human nature. Blake uses the four virtues of delight, “mercy, pity, peace, and love,” to not only personify human beings themselves but also to represent God. He directly associates each virtue with something pertaining to man himself (Romantic); mercy is the heart, pity is the face, love is the body, and peace is the garment all of us wear. Although we know that each virtue is paired with a human attribute we can also deduce that mercy is “delight”, pity is how we picture God and ourselves, love is the universality of prayer, and finally, peace is the love of that form and the having of mercy on particular faces (Ashok). Thoughts, emotions, and actions that the human body creates show these four virtues.
In the first stanza of “The Divine Image” Blake makes the four virtues of delight objects of prayer, stating that in times of “distress” all people will pray to these things for “thankfulness.” Both God and man are the four attributes which likens man to God which establishes the fact that man is made in God’s image. The third stanza is where Blake gives the four abstract qualities to man which makes them recognizable because of their features. Next, in his final stanza, he uses...