A Divine Image - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of A Divine Image

A Divine Image

Cruelty, jealousy, terror and secrecy are abstract ideas but they have no reality apart from human beings. It is from the heart of human beings that cruelty comes. It is human beings who are jealous, who cause terror, who create secrecy. Humanity is, therefore, not soft and tender. It is strong like iron. It is as powerful and as full of potentially destructive, as well as constructive, energy as a forge or a furnace. The human heart is not soft and tender but a consuming mouth, like that of a beast.


This is an additional poem, added to the collection around 1804, after its first publication. It is useful to read this poem alongside The Divine Image, The Human Abstract and The Tyger, because they all deal with the same range of ideas.

Blake believed that a complete vision of life, of God and of people could only be obtained if contraries are held together. The world encompasses the tenderness of the lamb and the ferocity of the tiger. There is fierce energy at the heart of the world as well as beauty and gentleness. A true divine image must reflect this truth. If we say that human beings are the image of God, then these ideas must be related to God, too.

This poem, however, reflects the standpoint of experience. It looks at human beings when they have been corrupted by the ‘mind-forg'd manacles' discussed in London or are dominated by the growth in the human brain illustrated by The Human Abstract. This produces a distorted and incomplete vision of human beings, in which all their power and energy is interpreted and expressed in ways which are life-denying and destructive.

Investigating A Divine Image

  • What do you think Blake is saying about the nature of human beings here?
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