The Influence of The Bible on English Literature

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On William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience

William Blake, a true exemplification of a renaissance man, wrote and produced works of art which were revolutionary in many aspects and ahead of his time. He led an extremely enigmatic life – engaging in things he liked the best and in the course of it, facing setbacks in the form of criticism. Blake attended the Moravian Church as a child and hence the Holy Bible had a great impact on his life and all his works. “He considers himself a monistic Gnostic which meant that he believed what saved a person's soul was not faith but knowledge”(Analyzing William Blake’s Poetry). His dynamic way of interpreting the Bible could not be accepted by the Church in those times or by a large majority of the readers because that was an era when the Church had a lot of influence on the State. He uses the image of ‘lamb’ to symbolize Christ, perhaps because the emblem of the Moravian Church is the Lamb of God, surrounded by the Latin inscription meaning “Our lamb has conquered, let us follow him”.

The poems “The Lamb” and “The Shepherd” are clearly symbolisms for Jesus Christ and the Biblical interpretation of the God as a shepherd, guiding sheep/men. Blake writes, “He is called by thy name, / for he calls himself a Lamb” which is a direct reference to the Apostle John’s description of Jesus. “And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36) (Oldgreenhorse, 2009) Here, Blake intends to use the imagery of the Lamb as a sign of creation by God. In “The Shepherd”, the image reminds us of that of the Garden of ...

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...reedom and free will. The poem, “The Little Black Boy”, was written as the poet’s response to the evils prevailing in the society at that point of time like child labour. The poet’s ability to holistically view the universe is evident when he describes earth as “a little space”. This is a direct contradiction to the geocentric theory that the Church propagated at a point of time. Traces of the Bible are found in this poem too, in the use of words such as “lambs”. If one were to point at a trademark feature of Blake’s poetry, it would be the description of simple elements of nature in splendid, yet facile language with subtle echoes of concepts, events or people in Christianity and the Bible. His poetry uses images and illustrations to the effect that the readers are able to visually imagine the anecdotes and occurrences in the Bible and hence enjoy them better.

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