Poetry and ReligionGarden of Love
by William Blake
I laid me down upon a bank,
Where Love lay sleeping;
I heard among the rushes dank
Then I went to the heath and the wild,
To the thistles and thorns of the waste;
And they told me how they were beguiled,
Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
This has been suggested as a criticism of the rules of the church, and as a mourning of the horrors of war, especially when supported by the Church.
What does everyone think?
William Blake was an interesting character. This poem is an interesting comparison to "Jerusalem" - which is commonly sung as a hymn.
Blake has been known to attack "orthodox religion". He was brought up in the Moravian church, and was no lover of the C of E or Catholic churches. He also saw visions which he certainly interpreted as being from God.
So I think you are probably right, that this was Blake expressing dissatisfaction with the church as a place of darkness and death, rather than a place filled with the love of the Holy Spirit. It's not a poem against religion, but against the way men turn religion into a weapon of control.
|jesusislord wrote: |
|It's a criticism of the love of the church reflected in how dead it was made to appear. A child seeing as an adult the reality of what he felt it should have been shown to be. A church appearing to be a place for the dead rather than the living. You can be dead without being physically dead when hemmed in by rules and regulation. In reality he found more love and beauty in the natural things of the world than in any of the things related to his childhood faith.
The things he enjoyed being disallowed by the church.
Just my opinion.
Well said! I agree.
It's a beautiful poem, Lexi. I had forgotten just how much that poem affects me.
|Lexilogio wrote: |
|So I think you are probably right, that this was Blake expressing dissatisfaction with the church as a place of darkness and death, rather than a place filled with the love of the Holy Spirit. It's not a poem against religion, but against the way men turn religion into a weapon of control. |
I'd go with that
Blake stands kind of off to one side among the first wave of Enlightenment / Romantic poetical legends (i.e. Wordsworth and Coleridge), but he was still a Romantic, and as such, he thought you could find the sublime and the spiritual in nature. I expect that's what it's about.
Blake was a fascinating character. Jerusalem is not a song in praise of Christian England as it is often sung; it is an angry outburst at how flawed industrial revolution England was, and how much work needed to be done in order to turn it into the spiritual Enlightenment utopia it could and should be.
It still resonates, because England is still flawed, and there is still work to be done.
Jerusalem - William Blake
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.