The Divine Image is part of Songs of Innocence. Songs of Innocence was first published in 1789 followed by the publication of Songs of Experience in 1794. William Blake mostly wrote romantic poetry and prophetic works. The Divine Image portrays an ideal world. The poem presents four traditional Christian virtues (Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love), which exist in the human heart and connect it with God. Later, William Blake wrote another poem, The Human Abstract from Songs of Experience, to contrast with The Divine Image. In fact, the original title of The Human Abstract was The Human Image. Notice the clear contrast between these two titles.
Explore The Divine Image
Summary of The Divine Image
The title of the poem suggests the importance of the image of God and, later through the stanzas, how it can be reflected in mankind. The lyrical voice personifies these virtues (Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love), as they represent God. And, then, explains how these are also characteristics of men: “For Mercy has a human heart, /Pity a human face,/And Love, the human form divine,/And Peace, the human dress”. Then, prays are made to God but also to “the human form divine”.
Form and Tone of The Divine Image
The poem has five stanzas in a ballad form. This means that stanzas are quatrains that have an alternation of four and three beats. The rhyme scheme is ABCB accompanied by simple syntax, diction, and structure. This generates a natural and regular pace, which is commonly used in songs and hymns, and it combines harmoniously with the ideas that are being presented. The tone of The Divine Image is didactic and remains constant throughout the stanzas.
Themes of The Divine Image
One of the main themes of The Divine Image is humankind’s relationship with God. The lyrical voice praises both divinity and humanity and links them together. Thus, the virtues that are presented by the lyrical voice carry within them a divine side, but also a human aspect. God and Man become inseparable and, because of that, mankind also turns into something worthy of praise: “And all must love the human form,/In heathen, Turk, or Jew;/Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell/There God is dwelling too”.
Historical Context of The Divine Image
William Blake wrote The Divine Image just a few years before the Romantic era (ca. 1800-1890). William Blake is a pre-romantic poet, as he portrays and conveys a lot of ideas and themes which are crucial to Romanticism. This artistic movement highlights emotion and glorifies nature and the past.
The Divine Image was originally published in Songs of Innocence, but it is later and most commonly found in Songs of Innocence and Experience, a volume that contains both Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Moreover, The Divine Image is similar in some aspects to other poems written by William Blake. It has a similar theme to A Cradle Song, which also explores the relationship between God and Man, and, likewise, it has a similar message to The Little Black Boy, emphasizing the need to praise all kinds of the human form.
Analysis of The Divine Image
To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
The first stanza of The Divine Image presents four virtues: Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love. These virtues are capitalized as they are personified (“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love/All pray in their distress”). This personification reflects the relationship between divinity and humanity. Moreover, these virtues become objects of prayer in case of distress and should be cherished and praised (“All pray in their distress”, “Return their thankfulness”). Notice how the style of this stanza and the following ones in The Divine Image have a clear and simple language that focuses on the images portrayed rather than on the language itself.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.
The second stanza links the virtues to God and to man. The lyrical voice references the virtues again and they are directly related to God: “For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love/Is God, our father dear”. After that, these same virtues are related to man: “And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love/Is Man, his child, and care”. Notice the repetition of the virtues and how they form a unity between divinity and humanity. This relation between God and man is emphasized by the father/child relationship established after the mention of the two words. The bond between divinity and humanity is, thus, presented strongly.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
The third stanza of The Divine Image focuses on describing each of the virtues and how they relate to mankind. Notice that this is the first stanza where the virtues appear separated. The lyrical voice will list the virtues and assign them to a human form: “Mercy has a human heart”, “Pity a human face”, “Love, the human form divine” and “Peace, the human dress”. This change in the message of the poem emphasizes the characteristics of each virtue and their relation to man. Moreover, there are many repetitions of the words “human” that focus on their link to the virtues and to their personification.
Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
The fourth stanza furthers on the link between the virtues and humanity. According to the lyrical voice, these virtues are always in “every man, of every clime” in their prayers. Again, this furthers the human aspect of these virtues and continues building a strong relationship between humanity and divinity. This can be seen, especially, when the lyrical voice says that all prayers are “to the human form divine”. Notice how the quatrain ends by repenting the virtues together as mentioned in the previous stanzas of The Divine Image.
And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
The final stanza of The Divine Image explains how all forms of humanity should be cherished. The lyrical voice mentions that “all must love the human form/In heathen, Turk or Jew”. This is because all forms of humanity are linked to divinity and, consequently, they are all important. Finally, the lyrical voice finished the poem by saying that three of these virtues (Mercy, Love, and Pity) coexist with God together: “Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell/There God is dwelling too”. This highlights this idea of inseparability between God and man, presented in the previous quatrains.
Similar Poetry to William Blake
You can find the analysis of The Human Abstract and the analyses of other poems of Songs of Innocence and Experience here:
Songs of Innocence
Songs of Experience