Earth's Answer by William Blake || Summary and Analysis

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Earth's Answer

Earth raised up her head
From the darkness dread and drear,
Her light fled,
Stony, dread,
And her locks covered with grey despair.

‘‘Prisoned on watery shore,
Starry jealousy does keep my den
Cold and hoar;
Weeping o’re,
I hear the father of the ancient men.

‘‘Selfish father of men!
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
Can delight,
Chained in night,
The virgins of youth and morning bear?

‘‘Does spring hide its joy,
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the plowman in darkness plough?

‘‘Break this heavy chain,
That does freeze my bones around!
Selfish, vain,
Eternal bane,
That free love with bondage bound.’’


Summary and Analysis

Introduction:

     'Earth's Answer' is the response of Earth to the call of the Bard in 'Introduction'. Earth, personified as a woman cannot act as instructed by the Bard because she is in chains. She is afraid of the false God of conventional religion who is also represented by 'Starry Jealousy'. The law of the God is a host of don'ts. Earth makes a wrathful protest against the conventional morality prohibiting sex and freedom in general. It is also an outcry against the conventional unmerciful God who hurls her to the slough of despair.

Earth raises her head at the bidding of the Bard and she appears to have lost her feminine grace and halo.
Earth's Answer


Summary:

      Earth raises her head at the bidding of the Bard and she appears to have lost her feminine grace and halo. She is foredoomed to lie in a dreary darkness. The gracious effulgence of her eyes is lost and she is benumbed and frozen with dreadful despair. Her youthful sweetness has been lost and she seems to be a hag with her locks turned grey with despair. Earth gives vent to her pent up feelings. She cannot respond to the incentive calls of the Bard because she is woefully fettered and bridled. She says that she is confined to the oppressive watery shore and 'Starry Jealousy' which represents Jehovah keeps guard on her den. Her abode is not a dower of bliss as it should be, but a den. She is so degenerated that she lives a beast's life in the den. Cold and old and weeping, she hears the father of ancient men, Jehovah. He is not a compassionate father but a selfish, cruel, jealous and fearful father. Being in chains a virgin like Earth can not revel and resurge. Spring cannot hide its joy when her guests are merry and gleeful. But no sower sows his seed by night and no ploughman tills the field at night. Earth begs the Bard to unchain her. The chain is unbearably tormenting, cracking her bones. Thus, 'Free Love' is subjected to servitude; this is an eternal curse upon her.

Earth Suffers from Deterioration:

      In the hands of Blake Earth is picturised in a repulsively nightmarish condition. She is devoid of her youthful charm and is engulfed in a watery shore; she is helplessly abandoned in the slough of despair. She can feel the note of optimism in the enthralling cry of the Bard but she is oppressed and down-trodden. She' gropes in darkness and her eyes have lost their youthful brightness and fascination. Her locks are grey with despair and she has changed into an aged crone. More pitiful is her descent to the level of a brute which lives in a den. Her prelapsarian spell-bound abode of nature is lost and now she is ever in the custody of the despicable giant, 'Starry Jealousy'. Above her the, voice of the cruel God Jehovah looms large. She is scared of the fierce, repelling and torturing hands of the cruel God. Her virginity is destined to wither away under the mighty knots of the chain bound around her. Her life is doomed to perish in fruitlessness and barrenness. Life and vigour flee perpetually from her for she is being choked by chains. The rough iron chain inflicts wounds on her and she lies motionless and still. Eternal curse has descended upon her and 'Love', suffers bondage and everlasting bane.

Love is God:

      The general human concept of God is that God is one who loves his devotees and looks on them with affection. But the predecessors and fore-fathers of the Christians had formulated an orthodox concept of God. According to them, Jehovah is the predominating deity and his laws were compiled as the Old Testament; Jehovah's rules consist of prohibitions on men. Further-more, this 'Father of Ancient Men' never deigned to console the suffering hearts of his people: instead, he chastised them, demanded fearful submission and laid a host of duties and obligations on his followers. But as time went by, the philanthropic prophets of the later period began to think in terms of a God who is amiable, amicable and love-ridden. As a result the New Testament came into being. Therefore, Jehovah in Blake stands for the oppressive codes of conventional religion and Christ stands as the Saviour of mankind, extending his hands to redeem them with his weapon of nonviolence. In 'Earth's Answer' Jehovah or Starry Jealousy' sets his provisions of objections on Earth and bans her free movement and joyful festivities. He puts 'Love' in chains.

      Man came to worship Jehovah when he modelled Jehovah after his own fashion. Man, depressed and dejected in his fallen' state, gave life, to an orthodox God who is bloodthirsty and greedy of what is dear to man. Thus, man came to develop a false concept of God as a mighty, relentless and reckless tyrant. Earth calls Jehovah 'Father of Ancient Men' because he is the god of ignorant orthodox and superstitious men with their uncivilised and barbaric characteristics. He is one who demanded human sacrifices and human blood from the Druids. This false father still, exists as a shadow because it is man who gives him life and takes life from him, and so, "heaven or hell is oneself". The foul God's weapons are sexual shame, moral conformity and the sort of rationality which is inhuman, and dehumanising. His teachings are pseudointellectual and if only man gets rid of him he can perceive things in the right perspective.

Another Interpretation:

      Earth in 'Earth's Answer' is often associated with Adam and Eve, who, in their fallen and lapsed condition, are desperate and disappointed. Earth's, resentment is therefore considered as the resentment of Adam and Eve before they attain the power and patience to love God who is the very person to redeem them from their present state of despondency.

      Some critics highlight the view point that the 'Holy Word' or the Bard' indicates man's inherent poetic genius. By way of his creative imagination he summons the dawn or a revival of life. But Earth's answer comes out of grey despair because her hope is,

hope only of empty men.

 

Symbolism:

      We have three persons dominating the horizon of 'introduction,' and 'Earth's Answer.' They are the Bard, Earth and the 'Father of Ancient Men'. In them Bard stands for all the prophets; Earth represents the redeemed or those who are capable of listening to the Bard. Earth also signifies human soul, man or Adam and Eve and the soul of all created objects. The 'Father of Ancient Men' is called the Elect because he represents fallen man's idolatry and his unconcern towards his own soul. The Christian Gospels accentuate 'soul' as God's manifestation.

The Structure of the Poem:

      A frequent complaint is that the poem is a series of irregular stanzas, dragging and confined. It is quite true that the poet for the sake of poetic fidelity and conjuring up the dreary atmosphere cuts the sentences short. But it is ingenious of him because it strikes the reader's heart thoroughly and dramatically. We may come across rhythmic and melodious lines in Coleridge's Christabel even when he describes the macabre. But Blake wants to make his words stunning, repulsive and striking for the context.

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