A Divine Image - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Human heart – Blake's readers would recognise this poem as echoing the New Testament teaching of Jesus, that evil should not just be blamed on external forces:

21 For from within, out of your hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile you. TNIV Mark 7:21-23

Divine – See Religious / philosophical background > Blake's religious outlook > Blake's perspective on God. The idea that a human was also ‘Divine' tallied with Blake's rejection of a transcendent God. Instead, ‘God' was to be found within humanity, ‘dressed' in human form.

ForgeForge – The image of the ‘fiery forge' is probably an allusion to the forge of Hephaestus, the Greek blacksmith god of fire who built Pandemonium, the dwelling-place of all the demons. His symbols are a hammer and anvil. This links human beings with a powerful force within creation which is perceived as demonic.

The image was probably also inspired by the great industrial change witnessed in the second half of the eighteenth century, when mills and foundries were beginning to be established and the processes of mechanization were a source of national pride.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • There is a link between the symbolism used in A Divine Image and that of The Tyger
    • Compare the two and note the similarities you find


How the human mind sees the nature of the world and its creator

According to Blake, ‘contraries' are facts about the world and about the nature of the creative force behind it. For example, ferocious power and energy exist alongside what is fragile and tender. Humans falsify their understanding of the creator and of the human beings made ‘in his image' when one of these dimensions is excluded from the picture. This creates unnecessary questions and produces unhealthy splits between what are understood as forces of good and forces of evil.

According to the Bible, Heaven and Hell impinge on human experience. Thus, the powerful energies within the world and the energies and instincts within human beings are necessary and beautiful. They become destructive when they are either denied or seen as the sole factor in life and experience. Blake's sub-theme is that vision based wholly on experience is as incomplete as the inadequacy of ignorant innocence.

Investigating themes

  • In what way could this poem be read as:
    • A positive picture of humanity?
    • A negative picture of humanity?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.