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Author Topic: William Blake  (Read 1724 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: April 30, 2009, 01:45:02 AM »

I am looking for some Orthodox opinions regarding the poet William Blake. I have not read any of his work, but I have frequently seen him hailed and promoted by other writers that I do admire. Thomas Merton speaks highly of him in his wonderful book "The Seven Story Mountain." But Merton also cautions readers who are not secure in their Christian faith not to take in too much of William Blake without serious discernment.

From what I gather, William Blake is very unorthodox, but perhaps deeply Christian nonetheless. Can anyone out there offer some opinions on his work?

Selam
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« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2009, 01:57:16 AM »

This might be helpful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake#Religious_views.
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2009, 02:21:04 AM »


Thanks. Now I know why Thomas Merton cautioned spiritual novices from taking in too much of Blake's work. I consider myself a spiritual novice, and at first glance it appears that Blake is too seductive for me to trust. Just enough profound truth to get me hooked, and then derail me from Orthodoxy. Very dangerous I think. And yet he sure seems fascinating, and perhaps was a Christian at heart. But I am fearful of his work, because I know that satan likes to use patial truth to lead men into the greatest of lies.

Selam 
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2009, 01:33:40 PM »

I picked up an illustrated collection of his works, just browsing at the library.  I think in some ways he is a refreshing voice for our times because he extols Beauty, Truth, Courage, etc...the big ideas.  But he was also just kind of a weirdo.  From what I can remember his ideas are pantheistic at heart, but on the surface he could almost pass for a Christian.  As an Orthodox Christian, you should read him and Merton both with a grain of salt and serious discernment.  Just like when you watch a movie or read the paper, you have to know that whatever good there is is likely to be cut with a great deal of unChristian ideas. 
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2009, 02:35:04 PM »

Hey, a guy whose poetry and art inspired one of the best hard rock albums of all time (I speak, of course, of Bruce Dickinson's The Chemical Wedding) can't be all that bad!

It's mystical to be sure.  Is it Christian mysticism?  It certainly has hints of it.  One just has to read "Jerusalem" to get that idea.

Why not just read it for its own sake instead of whether or not it fits into a certain pre-determined category?
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2009, 02:35:59 PM »

The Tiger (by William Blake)
  
TIGER, tiger, burning bright   
In the forests of the night,   
What immortal hand or eye   
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?   
 
In what distant deeps or skies            5
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?   
On what wings dare he aspire?   
What the hand dare seize the fire?   
 
And what shoulder and what art   
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?     10
And when thy heart began to beat,   
What dread hand and what dread feet?   
 
What the hammer? what the chain?   
In what furnace was thy brain?   
What the anvil? What dread grasp     15
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?   
 
When the stars threw down their spears,   
And water'd heaven with their tears,   
Did He smile His work to see?   
Did He who made the lamb make thee?     20
 
Tiger, tiger, burning bright   
In the forests of the night,   
What immortal hand or eye   
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2009, 11:39:55 AM »

I like William Blake and all those mystical English poets; I think they were all struggling to find the Truth. I didn't mean to make it sound like Blake was devoid of artistic merit; I just meant that whatever you read, you should do it with a sense of discernment.  That's actually a pleasure to do as a Christian; whenever I go to the movies or the bookstore, finding hints of Christ's influence on the whole universe is a great joy!  Sometimes you just find Orthodoxy in surprising places.  And I guess some is better than none.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2009, 11:40:21 AM by si2008 » Logged
Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2009, 06:23:20 PM »

I like William Blake and all those mystical English poets; I think they were all struggling to find the Truth. I didn't mean to make it sound like Blake was devoid of artistic merit; I just meant that whatever you read, you should do it with a sense of discernment.  That's actually a pleasure to do as a Christian; whenever I go to the movies or the bookstore, finding hints of Christ's influence on the whole universe is a great joy!  Sometimes you just find Orthodoxy in surprising places.  And I guess some is better than none.

Great statement!

Selam
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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2009, 08:25:03 PM »

Hey, a guy whose poetry and art inspired one of the best hard rock albums of all time

Don't forget Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Jerusalem"!  Art Rock turned up to 11!


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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2009, 11:45:54 PM »

Blake's a deist, not a Christian, trying to fit him into your personal framework is absurd. Enjoy his work for itself, not for how it fits your personal worldview.

I must say, some of his Poems really resonate with me; from the 'Songs of Innocence':

The Little Vagabond
 
Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold,
But the Ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm;
Besides I can tell where I am use'd well,
Such usage in heaven will never do well.
 
But if at the Church they would give us some Ale.
And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale;
We'd sing and we'd pray, all the live-long day;
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray,

Then the Parson might preach & drink & sing.
And we'd be as happy as birds in the spring:
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at Church,
Would not have bandy children nor fasting nor birch.
 
And God like a father rejoicing to see,
His children as pleasant and happy as he:
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel
But kiss him & give him both drink and apparel.
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2009, 12:12:09 AM »

Blake may have been influenced by the Muggletonians, a little-known English Dissenter group that believed in geocentrism (and thus rejected Newtonian heliocentrism) and other interesting ideas.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2009, 12:15:16 AM by Jetavan » Logged

If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.
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