A Divine Image: by William Blake - Summary and Analysis

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A Divine Image

Cruelty has a Human Heart 
And Jealousy a Human Face 
Terror the Human Form Divine 
And Secrecy, the Human Dress 

The Human Dress, is forged Iron 
The Human Form, a fiery Forge. 
The Human Face, a Furnace seal'd 
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.

Summary and Analysis


      'A Divine Image' was engraved by Blake, but never included in any edition of the songs that he issued, presumably because 'The Human Abstract' was also meant as a contrast to 'The Divine Image' in Songs of Innocence. Man may worship mercy, pity, peace and love but he may, equally, erect a god from base qualities and worship him; thus these qualities are at once human and 'divine'. In the Bible man is made in the image of God; here God is made in the image of man.

In 'A Divine Image' the indefinite article A' points at a particular divine image which has a unique growth.
A Divine Image


      The poem 'A Divine Image' is a contrast to 'The Divine Image' in its very title. In 'The Divine Image', the definite article The shows the real, one and only Divine Image. In 'A Divine Image' the indefinite article A' points at a particular divine image which has a unique growth. The contrast is also visible in the two stanzas of these two poems. For example, in 'The Divine Image' the lines that run as:

"For Mercy has a human heart,

Pity a human face,

And Love the human form divine.

Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace..."

can be seen as a stark contrast to the lines of 'A Divine Image' that run as:

"Cruelty has a human heart

And Jealousy a human face;

Terror the human form divine

And Secrecy the human dress."

Blake's vision of man in Songs of Experience, especially with reference to 'A Divine Image' can be summed up as,

"The human dress is forg'd iron.

The Human form a fiery forge

The human face a furnace sealed

The human heart its hungry gorge."

This is truly terrifying. His soul (the human form) is burning with frightfulness within the iron body of secrecy (the condition of deceit): his face is a furnace sealed up wherein jealousy rages; his heart is recklessly cruel. The imagery is similar to that of 'The Tyger', but where the Tiger had broken all bounds as a symbol of regeneration, man is here imprisoned in a 'dress' of an iron suit, of his own forging; and all his energies burn within it, consuming him.

A Divine Image': a Sardonic Attack:

      'A Divine Image' is often quoted as representing Blake's sardonic attack on the conventional or traditional religion. "The human face a furnace sealed" remind us of the furnace of the constructive fires of 'The Tiger.' The conventional Christian virtues like Mercy, Pity, Love and Peace are subverted by a cruel and vicious deity and thus the conception of man as made in the image of God is inverted.

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