The text below is the excerpt from the book William Blake, written by Osbert Burdett, published by Parkstone International.
Blake’s peculiar magic was to stir the feelings when appearing to address the mind. His identification of “intelligence” with “imagination” is the key. His own prose provides the best glosses on his poetry, and his axiomatic ideas are simple. “Energy is eternal delight;” “Good is the passive that obeys reason. Evil is the active springing from energy. Good is heaven. Evil is hell.” Thus, taking a hint from Milton, and protesting as all mystics, including Bunyan, have protested that religion is not to be confused with morality, Blake asserted that the words good and evil had become attached to the wrong things, that the person of Christ was becoming revered for the very qualities that He had repudiated. To correct the error, and to affirm the irresponsible divinity of energy, Blake wrote the “Everlasting Gospel.” The poem ends, as it had begun, on a note of defiance: “I am sure this Jesus will not do / Either for Englishmen or Jew.” This line rebels against conventional religious teachings, boldly illustrating Blake’s position.
Such poems as “The Mental Traveller,” while undoubtedly the work of a poet, are cloudy with the light that they do not disclose. Blake’s imagination is seen here to be working with the instruments, but without the processes, of thought. When he is nonsensical, as in “Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell,” oddly enough the imagination threatens to desert him too. The “Auguries of Innocence,” another series of couplets in the manner of the “Everlasting Gospel,” contain the famous quatrain:
To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wildflower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
Most of the ensuing couplets are proverbs in rhyme, and, like many proverbs, hit or miss a meaning at random. The nearest approach to sequence is contained in the concluding lines:
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night, to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in Night;
But does a Human Form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
Blake may have been rhyming for pleasure, and putting down any couplet that came to his pen. While he warned us of the insufficiency of the senses, he admitted the possession of first as well as second sight. On the physical plane he was no victim of delusion…
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