William Blake Month: “The Divine Image”


Robert Demachy. “Mignon.” 1900.

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.


via smokeandacoke on the tumblr.

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.


Cairo, Egypt, photgraphed by Philip-Lorca diCorcia for W.


And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.


(William Blake, “The Divine Image.”)

“All must love the human form — there God is dwelling too.” We say things like this all the time, but consider that Blake wrote in the 1700’s. He prefigured all the poseur Romantics and social reformers, but transcended their work, too. And he really was disgusted by the inequities of life on earth in the Western world at that time.


Ryan McGinley, “Jake.”

Blake writes all the time about how his visions lead him to see that people truly, genuinely, are the same beneath, that plants and animals and even handmade objects hold a universal grain of likeness to people, being all made directly or indirectly by God and inhabited by a hierarchy of spirits, demons, and angels — that everything around us, ourselves and nature and all the things we make, are reflections of God because of our being made in His image.


Ryan McGinley, “Hysteric Fireworks.”

Logically, it followed to him that to raise your hand against these fellow creations was wrong and could not be God’s will; therefore all systems that enforced human governance over one another or intrusion in to nature was against God’s plan and was a sinful conception of man which had nothing to do with redemption — this included most organized religion, education, and politics, all of which he felt were offensive, grasping human attempts to control and oppress one another, which was the same as to try to bully God.


McGinley again — a Morrissey concert.

He really saw with the eyes of his heart: and almost more than anything else he truly did not understand why there would be starvation, child abuse, and especially war. And he knew well enough that he was unlike his countrymen in that way to write poems reminding them that violence and injustice were not the right paths. They all assumed he was crazy, of course. But look at his message, especially his emphasis on religious tolerance (an easy jump for him since he believed all people were equal plus his visions told him all religions had it all jacked up to begin with). It pretty obviously is still relevant and resonant today.


Ryan McGinley, “Fireworks.” He’s my new fave, if you couldn’t tell.

It is a reasonable enough message. If God created us and all things, then we must be peaceful and loving to one another and the animals and natural resources around us, and love them for being reflections of God. It is the only right way to be. So why is it such a challenge, again and again? Everyone claims to want it, so why it is always out of reach is depressing and mystifying. Kind of like how “the one thing we’re all waiting for/ is peace on earth and an end to war” to quote Queen’s “The Miracle.” I know I just went from Blake to Freddie Mercury, but I’m a maverick! Good people quote the Beatles. Great people quote the Beatles, Billy Joel, and Queen. Take it to the bank.

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