And all must love the human form, In heathen, turk or jew. Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell, There God is dwelling too.
In “The Divine Image,” the lines sound like those of a hymn. Like many hymns, the poem ends with a moral: The last stanza exhorts readers to “love the human form,” or, simply stated, love one another. The stanza alludes to the biblical teaching that God is love and that God dwells among us. But Blake portrays love as part of human as well as divine nature. The revolutionary implication of this idea is that God can be created and kept alive by the human mind. The poem implies that the same can be said of love.
And we are put on earth a little space, That we may learn to bear the beams of love, And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.
In “The Little Black Boy,” a black mother comforts her son, who wonders why his skin is black and not white. In the fourth stanza, the mother reassures the boy that God’s love, symbolized by the sun, shines on them, no matter what color their skin. However, the phrases “bear the beams” and “sun-burnt face” remind readers that the sun’s heat can also destroy. The poem contrasts black and white, light and shade, hot and cool. The cloud and the grove are motifs that Blake used often to symbolize imagination and inspiration.
But most thro’ midnight streets I hear How the youthful Harlots curse Blasts the new-born Infants tear And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
The poem “London” reads like a song of protest against poverty and other evils of urban life. Here, the last stanza describes the corruption of all forms of love—romantic, parental, and marital. The individual harlot and infant represent all others of their kind. The stanza directly attacks prostitution, unwanted pregnancy, and venereal disease and condemns the larger society that supports these evils.
O Rose thou art sick. The invisible worm, That flies in the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy.
“The Sick Rose” stands as a condemnation of corrupt human love and an expression of human sensuality. The poem can also be read as a realistic description of a flower’s life cycle. Here, Blake exercises an enviable economy of language. He conveys multiple layers of meaning in eight short lines, with only thirty-four simple words. Blake was familiar with medieval romances in which the rose symbolized the lover. He employs the same allegory in this poem but uses a bitter tone that mocks the sentimental convention.
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