“The Divine Image” is a poem by the English poet William Blake from his book Songs of Innocence (1789), not to be confused with “A Divine Image” from Songs of Experience (1794). It was later included in his joint collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794).
“The Divine Image”
“To Mercy Pity Peace and Love, All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy Pity Peace and Love, Is God our father dear:
And Mercy Pity Peace and Love, Is Man his child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays to the human form divine Love Mercy Pity Peace.
And all must love the human form, In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell, There God is dwelling too.”
In this poem Blake pictures his view of an ideal world in which the four traditionally Christian virtues–Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love–are found in the human’s heart and stand for God’s support and comfort. Joy and gratitude are sentiments expressed through prayer for the caring and blessing of an infallible almighty God and are shared by all men. Therefore, all prayers to Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love are directed not just to God but to “the human form divine,” which all people must love and respect regardless of their religion or culture. Regarded as inborn characteristics of humans by Blake, these essentially human virtues can be found in every man’s soul on Earth, notwithstanding his origin or religious belief. When Blake refers to the prayer of a heathen, Jew or Turk, he exemplifies all humankind sharing God’s virtues in an ideal world regardless of the concept of Divinity men may have.
The title of the poem refers to the Book of Genesis Chapter 1 verse 26: ‘And God said: Let us make man in our image’
The essence of God is the “virtues of delight”, Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love.
A Divine Image
“Cruelty has a human heart, And Jealousy a human face; Terror the human form divine, And Secresy the human dress.
The human dress is forged iron, The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace sealed, The human heart its hungry gorge.”
Nouns such as Secrecy and Cruelty, which appear in “A Divine Image” are personified with human attributes. Blake is meaning that humans created and are responsible for these terrible parts of the world
The poem uses personification to dramatize Christ’s mediation between God and Man. Beginning with abstract qualities, in “The Divine Image”, (the four virtues of Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love), the poem makes these abstractions the object of human prayer and piety. The second stanza explains this somewhat strange notion by equating the virtues with God himself. But the idea is still slightly unorthodox, suggesting as it does that we pray to these abstract virtues because they “are” God, rather than praying to God because he has these sympathetic qualities. The poem seems to emphasize that Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love are not God’s characteristics but his substance — they are precisely what we mean when we speak of God.