The Divine Image by William Blake

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To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. –
And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk, or jew;
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

The Divine Image Elaboration

William Blake uses fairly traditional and simple language to highlight the high regard for virtue by humans. He metaphorically likens the four virtues; love, mercy, pity, and peace with God himself. He further uses imagery to compare these higher values with the human form; where he considers love as a man’s divine nature, likens mercy with a man’s emotional being, pity with a man’s face, and peace with a man’s clothes. The poet richly applies a solemn tone; one that confronts a reader with a more profound meditation over the piece. The choice of words such as ‘all pray in their distress’ stir in the reader a yearning for a deeper, near spiritual regard of the four values. Towards the close of the poem, the poet reconciles God with men by first, making a claim that these values embody God’s very nature. He then suggests that God yearns for them in all men; men whom God perceive as in his image. Blake then uses personification where he states that the four virtues ‘Is Man, his child and care.’ He ends by claiming that humanity has a divine dimension which creates in the reader an image of inseparability of the values, humanity, and Godliness.

Modernized Version

To Mercy, Compassion, Peace, and Love

People are desperate;

Where these values are still found,

People are utterly grateful.

For Mercy, Compassion, Peace, and Love

God the Almighty epitomizes them all,

And Mercy, Compassion, Peace, and Love

He wishes for all men.

For Mercy should think like a man,

Compassion once resembled him,

And Love, was humane,

And Peace was once like a man’s coat.

Today few men, of every season

Pray in their distress,

They pray to a loving God,

Love, Mercy, Compassion, Peace. –

And people adored humanity,

In all human races and nations;

Where Mercy, Love & Compassion are found,

The Almighty lives there too.

My Modernist Rewrite

In the entire poem, I have made Love, Mercy, Pity, and Peace rare and largely coveted values that existed much earlier in time. By switching the tense from the original poet’s present continuous to past, in the final stanza, I summarize the piece by claiming that these values used to be divine; at least sometime in the past. My general argument in the poem is that the original author could have been right during his time, and that the values he praises are today a vintage luxury; largely coveted but hardly realized.

In the first stanza, I replace ‘All pray in their distress’ with ‘people are desperate’. In the eighteenth century, religiosity was seen as gateway to hope and eventual deliverance. Therefore, when William Blake used the word ‘pray’, he creates an impression that there is hope. However, there is so much animosity, individualism, and selfishness today. My choice of ‘desperate’ instead of ‘pray’, depicts the unlikelihood of simply wishing for and realizing the values.

In stanzas three and four, I have used past tense to illustrate that the divine values were once in the past epitomized in humanity. My choice of the tense is to create a tone that invokes nostalgia in a reader; of a beautiful past that is hard to rebuild today: This is a departure from the original poem which portrayed to readers a high possibility of attaining Love, Mercy, Pity, and Peace; if only they prayed to God.

Finally, my modern version needs not to be incriminated for unduly casting aspersions on the advocates of virtue: All I am saying is that the context has changed. For instance, in the last stanza where William talks of Turks, Jews, and heathens, I have replaced with races and nations, which seem to be the lines of division today. Therefore, a different approach to Love, Mercy, Pity, and Peace needs to be followed; which requires more than just prayers.

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