The Theme Of Authority In William Blake's Poetry

716 words - 3 pages

The Theme of Authority in William Blake's Poetry

The theme of authority is possibly the most important theme and the most popular theme concerning William Blake’s poetry. Blake explores authority in a variety of different ways particularly through religion, education and God. Blake was profoundly concerned with the concept of social justice. He was also profoundly a religious man. His dissenting background led him to view the power structures and legalism that surrounded religious establishments with distrust. He saw these as unwarranted controls over the freedom of the individual and contrary to the nature of a God of liberty. Figures such as the school master in the ‘schoolboy’, the parents in the ‘chimney sweeper’ poems, the guardians of the poor in the ‘Holy Thursday’, Ona’s father in ‘A Little girl lost’ and the priestly representatives of organised religion in many of the poems, are for Blake the embodiment of evil restriction.

In the Garden of Love Blake talks about how the green, the place of childhood play has been corrupted by a repressive religious morality. Blake describes the Garden as being ‘filled with graves and tombstones’, this confirms his criticism of restrictive conventional morality. Contrary to the view that pleasure leads to corruption, Blake believed that it was the suppression of desire, not the enactment of it that produced negative effects. Blake hated organised religion, and the Garden of Love explores some of the restrictions he saw and detested in the church. The chapel is not therefore the welcoming and opening place that we might expect, but is imposing and forbidding. The gates are shut to prevent approach and the chapel announces itself within the prohibition ‘Thou shalt not’. Blake saw organised religion as being profoundly at odds with the spirit of freedom and life. The disturbing image of the priests in black gowns…walking their rounds’ makes them seem more like policemen of morality rather than priests of Christ. Blake emphasises his dislike of the priests by connecting the positive and negative with internal rhymes in the final two lines of the poem ‘gowns’ and ‘rounds’, ‘briars’ and...

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