God and the Poetic Genius in William Blake

In yesterday’s classes we explored the core ideas that lie behind and within all of William Blake’s work. This was a huge task for our three hour session, but I believe we made some headway raking the ground as it were in order to allow the seeds of our understanding to grow.

Essentially Blake is here representing his deep sense of how what is most essential in our lives has to come from our experience of  the truth of who and what we are. But this is not so easy to reach when we are enmeshed in complex lives filled with contradictory emotions and with careering thoughts over which we have little direct control. So this is where the “Poetic Genius” comes in as Blake’s way of envisioning that buried part of each human being that can come to life if we give it space and nurturing. For Priam, in Ransom he literally had to abdicate for a time, to become centred and allow the inner part of his being to appear. You remember how this began to appear slowly under the influence of Stomax, by the river, with the fish and the griddle cakes. The word abdicate meaning “do divest oneself of office” was first used with this meaning in 1610. This is what I believe Blake meant by “Poetic Genius”, it was a revolutionary idea that saw the source of truth arising from inside each human being rather than from some external divine authority. In this context, Blake has been called an antinomian because he dared to challenge the conventional moral law of both church and state in his day.

As if by magic, when I was googling to find a useful reinforcement for what we covered in class yesterday, I found this wonderful short article that covers comprehensively what we we were teasing out in tutorials. What is so beautiful about this article is that it explains so succintly how and why Blake was both outside but also very much inside essential Christianity. This was a question that many of us were wrestling with so I hope this short essay takes your thoughts one step further.

But before I give you the essay, here are your Blog Topics for Week 7:

1/ In your own words define how you understand Blake’s idea of “Poetic Genius”.

2/ Write a short poem or short-short story describing what you see to be the action of “Poetic Genius” in your own life. (Don’t spend too much time thinking about this one: just begin it and see where it leads!)

3/ Do a Google search for “Natural Religion” (for example in Wikepedia or David Hume or Sacred Texts). See if you can write a short-short summary that sheds light on Blake’s understanding of Natural Religion.

4/ Write a short- short review of Dana Day’s essay on “Poetic Genius”.. Say how it has amplified your view of the meaning Blake gives to these words.

5/ Describe how angry you are at Mr William Blake for taking away from you the ideas about Christianity that you have been brought up with.

6/ Take the first sentence from any one of the aphorisms in either “All Religions are One” or “There is No Natural Religion” and write a poem with that sentence as your opening line(s).

Here is the article on “God and The Poetic Genius” that I promised you:


Blake’s Adam and Eve Enjoying their Satan inspired Bliss!

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