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What impression do you receive from the Songs of Blake's own religious beliefs?

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Introduction

Sophie Lakes. What impression do you receive from the Songs of Blake's own religious beliefs? In your answer write about the themes, tone and style of not more than five poems. William Blake was incredibly spiritual and certainly a strong Christian, although he disliked organised religion as he saw it to be an oppressive tool. His brother died of consumption at quite a young age, and this had a profound effect on Blake, who is said to have seen his soul 'ascend heavenward clapping its hands for joy'. I feel it is fair to argue that Blake used his poetry to express his religious views, and criticise the Church's repressive nature. Blake Songs of Innocence and Experience certainly contain many poems with religious overtones. Blake uses various techniques to show his own feelings for, in particular, organised religion and the church. Animal imagery is particularly prominent. Holy Thursday, from Songs of Innocence depicts an image of children visiting St Paul's Cathedral. The title itself suggests the celebration of the day Jesus' friend Judas betrayed him, and as a result he was taken on the following day, now known as 'Good Friday' to be killed. On this day Jesus gave the commandment 'That ye love one another as I have loved you.' It is this feast that the children, usually from Charity Schools, seem to be celebrating. ...read more.

Middle

The use of the pronoun 'He' could suggest that the lamb is Jesus, 'He is meek and he is mild; He became a little child', although it could too be symbolic of all children. It can be argued that Blake's intention was to use biblical references to connect with all people, as, in the time of his writing, the church was far more prominent than it is today. Although this poem implicitly references the bible with the 'lamb', it could too simply be Blake's way of criticising the Church's treatment of innocent children. This being said, I feel it is possible that Blake did not intend to overtly portray his religious views in this poem. The Divine Image, from Songs of Innocence uses anthropomorphism, the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman things, to convey its religious content. The word 'divine' means 'relating to Gods, gods, or goddesses', again showing a specific religious reference. The poem seems to convey a message of God encompassing all that is positive, 'For Mercy has a human heart, / Pity a human face'. It is possible that Blake intended this poem to contradict his other, more critical religious poems. Despite his spirituality, it would be feasible to view Blake as an atheist, because of his contempt for the church. This poem, therefore, is arguably the most accurate in showing his own religious beliefs, laid bare and free from criticism. ...read more.

Conclusion

The structure of this poem is also different to its counterpart, as the sentences are much shorter and many more questions are posed about society. Blake uses negative diction throughout, 'Babes reduced to misery' and 'eternal winter' being examples of this. The poem implies people living in unorganised innocence, passively accepting things that they believe they cannot change. This poem certainly seems to impose upon the reader Blake's cynicism of organised religion and perhaps the passiveness of people, who fail to question religion, as shown also in A Little Boy Lost. In conclusion, I think it is far to argue that Blake does use his poetry to reflect his own religious views and does this through his sarcasm and cynicism of the church. Arguably the poems in Experience show this more blatantly, as the imagery and diction becomes increasingly negative. The Songs of Experience do show his beliefs, but in a less aggressive way than the Songs of Experience. The impression I receive from the Songs is one of Blake's distrust of the church, and of society, but a great belief and faith in God and the capacity of well-doing held by individuals. Religion is a prominent theme in the collection, but I feel that the tone is the most important technique he exercises, as it shows his sense of humour too. ...read more.

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