The city of Bath is singled out by Blake for its wisdom, benevolence and healing abilities. She is called the Healing City which is apropos for a city whose springs were reputed for their medicinal powers since ancient times. Who better to turn to heal Albion 'our brother' who is 'sick to death?'
|Courtesy of Wikimedia|
In Plate 40  of Jerusalem the voice of Bath is heard calling to Albion, asking him to recognize his 'dread disease' and accept the healing offered by Jesus. Allbion's disease is incurable except by 'mercy interposing.' Blake implies the God's mercy is required, but Albion's mercy is required also. His problem is that 'his machines are woven with his life.' These machines are the implements of war and the mental attitude which makes war acceptable. Britain has become accustomed to being at war and accumulating benefits for the 'military industrial complex' at the expense of the health and welfare of the people who suffer from wounds and neglect.
David Erdman finds in this plate in Jerusalem reference to two anti-war sermons preached by Richard Warner who was curate of St James, Bath from 1795 to 1817. (This church was lost to bombing in WWII.) The first sermon was occasioned by the Day of General Fast ordered by the King to be observed in all churches on May 25th, 1804. Richard Warner chose to observe the occasion by preaching and publishing a sermon titled: War Inconsistent with Christianity.
On Page 477 of Prophet Against Empire Erdman quotes from Warner's sermon:,
"However brilliant the successes are with which their arms shall be crowned; whatever acquisitions of territory conquest may unite to their ancient empire, ... War is the GREATEST CURSE with which a nation can be afflicted, and ... all its imaginary present advantages, or future contingent benefits, are but as 'the dust in the balance,' and 'chaff before the wind'.
Blake states: "however high Our palaces and cities, and however fruitful are our fields, In Selfhood, we are nothing: but fade away in mornings breath."
Learn more in this note included on page 204 of William Blake: Jerusalem edited by Morton D Paley.
Jerusalem, Plate 39 , (E 187) "They wept into the deeps a little space at length was heard The voice of Bath, faint as the voice of the Dead in the House of Death Plate 40  Bath, healing City! whose wisdom in midst of Poetic Fervor: mild spoke thro' the Western Porch, in soft gentle tears O Albion mildest Son of Eden! clos'd is thy Western Gate Brothers of Eternity! this Man whose great example We all admir'd & lov'd, whose all benevolent countenance, seen In Eden, in lovely Jerusalem, drew even from envy The, tear: and the confession of honesty, open & undisguis'd From mistrust and suspition. The Man is himself become A piteous example of oblivion. To teach the Sons Of Eden, that however great and glorious; however loving And merciful the Individuality; however high Our palaces and cities, and however fruitful are our fields In Selfhood, we are nothing: but fade away in mornings breath, Our mildness is nothing: the greatest mildness we can use Is incapable and nothing! none but the Lamb of God call heal This dread disease: none but Jesus! O Lord descend and save! Albions Western Gate is clos'd: his death is coming apace! Jesus alone can save him; for alas we none can know How soon his lot may be our own. When Africa in sleep Rose in the night of Beulah, and bound down the Sun & Moon His friends cut his strong chains, & overwhelm'd his dark Machines in fury & destruction, and the Man reviving repented He wept before his wrathful brethren, thankful & considerate For their well timed wrath. But Albions sleep is not Like Africa's: and his machines are woven with his life Nothing but mercy can save him! nothing but mercy interposing Lest he should slay Jerusalem in his fearful jealousy O God descend! gather our brethren, deliver Jerusalem But that we may omit no office of the friendly spirit Oxford take thou these leaves of the Tree of Life: with eloquence That thy immortal tongue inspires; present them to Albion: Perhaps he may recieve them, offerd from thy loved hands. So spoke, unheard by Albion. the merciful Son of Heaven To those whose Western Gates were open, as they stood weeping Around Albion: but Albion heard him not; obdurate! hard! He frown'd on all his Friends, counting them enemies in his sorrow And the Seventeen conjoining with Bath, the Seventh: In whom the other Ten shone manifest, a Divine Vision! Assimilated and embrac'd Eternal Death for Albions sake. And these the names of the Eighteen combining with those Ten Plate 41  Bath, mild Physician of Eternity, mysterious power Whose springs are unsearchable & knowledg infinite."