A Devine Image
by William Blake
Cruelty has a Human heart
And Jealousy a Human Face,
Terror, the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy, the Human Dress.
The Human Dress is forgéd Iron,
The Human Form, a fiery Forge,
The Human Face, a Furnace seal’d,
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.
This short eight line poem, by William Blake, is about the interconnectedness of human beings, sin-as-concept, and sin in its execution. Blake conveys simply that the concept requires a human conduit to exist substantively.
Cruelty is connected to a Human heart and the Human Heart to a hungry Gorge.
Jealousy is connected to a Human Face and the Human Face to a Furnace seal’d.
Terror is The Human Form Divine and The Human Form, a fiery Forge.
Secrecy is The Human Dress and The Human Dress is forged Iron.
The first stanza connects the concept of each sin to an aspect of humanity.
The second stanza connects the aspect of humanity to the sin’s execution.
Blake utilizes imagery associated with fire, for all four discussed sins, most likely drawing from the religious association between sin and a fiery Hell.
One should not confuse “A Divine Image” with Blake’s other similarly named work, “The Divine Image.” “A Divine Image” paints a dark and sinful picture of the human heart. God’s nature and attributes are not discussed in the work. “The Divine Image” by contrast discusses holy virtues, and God is included. The two should probably be read together as counter-points to one another.
William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. What he called his prophetic works were said by 20th-century critic Northrop Frye to form “what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language”. His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC‘s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. While he lived in London his entire life, except for three years spent in Felpham, he produced a diverse and symbolically rich œuvre, which embraced the imagination as “the body of God” or “human existence itself”.
Although Blake was considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, he is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of the Romantic movement and as “Pre-Romantic”. A committed Christian who was hostile to the Church of England (indeed, to almost all forms of organised religion), Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions. Though later he rejected many of these political beliefs, he maintained an amiable relationship with the political activist Thomas Paine; he was also influenced by thinkers such as Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th-century scholar William Michael Rossetti characterised him as a “glorious luminary”, and “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors”.