The Divine Image by William Blake
Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love are the attributes qualities of God. We pray God to these attributes when we are in distress. Mercy has a kind human heart, pity a human face, love is the human form and peace is the human dress. Where, mercy, pity, peace and love live, God, too, lives there.
Blake in this poem has tried to adduce an idea that God is the essence of all virtues. A man who possesses the divine virtues is no less than God. God’s abode is not the heaven, says Blake; he dwells within our hearts. And if a man shows the qualities of mercy, pity, peace and love, these attributes are the attributes of God too, it follows that man has a divine character and with these viruses, man can become manifestation of God.
Blake’s ‘The Divine Image’ celebrates the traditional Christian virtues of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love. Man also possesses these virtues, but they fail to realize it. In fact, they are oblivious to the qualities which are inside them. A man can rise up to the level of God if he realizes the inherent qualities in him. In this regard, a poem adopts a didactic tone. It is a sermon in verse. It is extremely simple but simplicity deepens once the reader deviates his thought towards the philosophical suggestions of the poem.
‘The Divine Image’ personifies God in human terms: God is no one but the apotheosis of human ideals and desire. Anthropomorphism is here treated more positively than derogatively. Whoever or even the God we have conceptualized doesn’t much matter: what matters to us is the concept of god, made up of the good that we all need and desire. When we are in distress, when we are in need of help, sympathy, support or encouragement, we desire for a perfect being who can give them all. It is then that we imagine and make god, the psychologically real imaginary being, a symbol of love, prosperity, strength, wisdom, a curer of maladies, and a reliever of pain. This is what we find in the underlying patterns of all mythologies of the world, including the annals of the Bible, and the Quran, and all other myths of the world. This poem is a simple statement about the way human beings make their gods, apparently different but actually embodying the same human dreams and desires. The four personified figures of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love are virtues of delight for us to get relief from distress; living in the world of imperfections, human beings create them especially in moments of distress.
The present poem is in ballad-like stanzas of four lines each. The singsong quality of the verses reinforces the calmness of the speaker’s emotion. There is also the seriousness in the theorizing of the idea, though it is done in so simple words that make us miss its seriousness. The trochaic meter has given the lines the lilting rhythm and movement like in most of the ‘innocence’ poems: the trochaic meter is suitable for poems of happy mood and in describing children’s like merry worlds. The lines are alternately tetrameter and trimester. The frequent repetition of words contributes to the simple hymn-like quality of the poem.