Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Wikipedia Commons
Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 24
In any society there are those who ascribe to the system, and those who disagree with the prevailing ethos. In England the system of government was the monarchy supported by an aristocratic class. There was a state church - the Church of England - which was the required form of worship. Those who would not accept the government or church were dissenters. The government enacted laws to restrict the freedom of dissenters to associate with one another, or disseminate anti-authoritarian information, or to fully participate in their system. In spite of attempts by the government to prevent people from practicing religion as the chose, numerous sects arose among the populace. 

Blake was born into a family of dissenters. Although he was baptised as an infant in an authorized church, the family dissented from established religion. As an adult Blake also dissented from supporting the system of government which led to the oppression of the masses by the ruling authorities. His opposition to the established government and the established church became a prevailing theme in his poetry. If his poetry had been read and understood by those in authority he would have been subject to sanctions as were George Fox, John Bunyan and Thomas Paine for their activities and writings. As it was, Blake was very nearly convicted of treason after expelling a enraged soldier from his garden.


Although dissenters were opposed to the dominant motifs of their society, they were usually, with some exceptions, not outside of the structure which prevailed. If they maintained a low profile, or avoided direct confrontations, they formed threads in the economic, political and social fabric of life. Although they could not be educated in establishment schools, be buried in Church of England churchyards, publish their ideas publicly, assemble in large groups, or hold public office, their influence was felt in religion, business, art and social improvement for the underclass.

Since one of the sanctions against dissenters was that they were no eligible for burial in churchyards, alternative burial grounds were developed, of which Bunhill Fields in London was one. The influence which dissenters had on their culture is apparent in the names of people buried in Bunhill Fields. Like many dissenters buried in Bunhill Fields Blake chose to have a Church of England funeral service which would have included prayer, readings from the Old and New Testaments and singing of hymns led by a clergyman of the Church of England. Several of William's family members including his parents and his brother Robert had previously been buried in Bunhill Fields, and his wife too would subsequently rest there among a long line of dissenters.

Not just in death but in life, Blake had joined a company who had set themselves apart not to exclude those whose work maintained a system based on exclusion, but to maintain solidarity with the universality of humanity.
Songs of Experience, The Chimney Sweeper, (E 22) 
"Because I was happy upon the heath, 
And smil'd among the winter's snow: 
They clothed me in the clothes of death, 
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.
And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

Annotations to Watson, (E 615)
 "The Bible or <Peculiar> Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience
or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the
Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may
converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house

Letters, To Cumberland, April 1827, (E 784) 
 "Flaxman is Gone & we must All soon follow every one to his
Own Eternal House Leaving the Delusive Goddess Nature & her Laws
to get into Freedom from all Law of the Members into The Mind in
which every one is King & Priest in his own House God Send it so
on Earth as it is in Heaven
I am Dear Sir Yours Affectionately
1ST Corinthians 15
[53] For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.
[54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 


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