I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen: A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And ``Thou shalt not'' writ over the door; So I turn'd to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore; And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb-stones where flowers should be; And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys & desires. The “Garden of Love” is a poem from the book of “Songs of Experience” written by William Blake. I chose this poem because I found it interesting and slightly easier to understand the messaging it contains. As soon as I read it I started thinking about how much trouble Blake must have caused himself for writing this poem. Blake was known to be against the doctrines of the Anglican faith and other of his poems like this one hint at dissatisfaction with the concept of God and the church. At the time it was written, rebelling against the church was not tolerated by society, meaning that writing and publishing this poem probably caused him many different problems. As I wrote earlier, this poem hints towards dissatisfaction with the Anglican Church. In fact, I think that that is the strongest message in this poem. The Garden of Love is a poem mostly written in anger towards the Church. I think that the Garden of Love is a metaphor for something or someone that has been destroyed or taken away from Blake, or somebody else because of the Church. The line: “Where I used to play on the green” expresses the feeling that whatever it was the Church had taken away was something that was very close to the narrator. It could have been love, a place, money or a vision... Something that was important or had special meaning. The poem focuses on a negative view of the Church. It describes the chapel as a big building with shut doors, put in a place where there should be nothing but love and joy. The line “And the gates of this Chapel were shut and “thou shalt not” writ over the door”, suggests that the Church was a closed and intolerant place, lacking the ability to accept any other feeling or faith. The line “Thou shalt not” could be Blake’s way of expressing the intolerance and the many forbidding rules of the Anglican faith. Graves have replaced flowers; death has replaced life. Where there used to be a garden of love there is now nothing but intolerance, sorrow and death. “And tomb-stones where flowers should be; and priests in black gowns were walking their rounds”. The priests were dressed in black, the colour of sorrow. The line “And binding by briars my joys and desires” suggests that life was being held back because of the Church. The Church was overly controlling of what people did and how they lived.
The painting didn’t change my idea or opinion of the poem. The painting shows a priest, dressed in black, burying somebody while two white angels are praying. The picture represents sorrow and death. I read some comments online and I found one written by somebody from the USA suggesting that the flowers could represent society. The flowers in the poem were replaced by tombstones, the joy and laughter of society could be replaced by sorrow and anger. As most of Blake’s work, this poem is metaphorical. It’s not an actual garden where somebody built a chapel; it’s metaphorical for the loss of happiness. Blake’s use of this poem would have been to open people’s eyes. To make society aware of what he thought was the damage made by the Church. A very brave thing to do, considering the consequences he must have faced. As I wrote, I think the strongest message in this poem is dissatisfaction and anger towards the Church.
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