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William Blake (1757–1827). The Poetical Works. 1908.

Selections from ‘Jerusalem’

To the Christians

(Jerusalem, f. 77.)

Devils are False Religions.
Saul! Saul! why persecutest thou me?
  • I give you the end of a golden string;
  • Only wind it into a ball,
  • It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
  • Built in Jerusalem’s wall.

  • We are told to abstain from fleshly desires that we may lose no time from the Work of the Lord. Every moment lost is a moment that cannot be redeemed: every pleasure that intermingles with the duty of our station is a folly unredeemable, and is planted like the seed of a wild flower among our wheat. All the tortures of repentance are tortures of self-reproach on account of our leaving the Divine Harvest to the Enemy, the struggles of entanglement with incoherent roots. I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination—Imagination, the real and Eternal World of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow, and in which we shall live in our Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies are no more. The Apostles knew of no other Gospel. What were all their spiritual gifts? What is the Divine Spirit? Is the Holy Ghost any other than an Intellectual Fountain? What is the harvest of the Gospel and its labours? What is that talent which it is a curse to hide? What are the treasures of Heaven which we are to lay up for ourselves? Are they any other than mental studies and performances? What are all the gifts of the Gospel? Are they not all mental gifts? Is God a Spirit who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth? And are not the gifts of the Spirit everything to Man? O ye Religious, discountenance every one among you who shall pretend to despise Art and Science! I call upon you in the name of Jesus! What is the life of Man but Art and Science? Is it meat and drink? Is not the Body more than raiment? What is Mortality but the things relating to the Body, which dies? What is Immortality but the things relating to the Spirit, which lives eternally? What is the Joy of Heaven but improvement in the things of the Spirit? What are the Pains of Hell but Ignorance, Bodily Lust, Idleness, and devastation of the things of the Spirit? Answer this to yourselves, and expel from among you those who pretend to despise the labours of Art and Science, which alone are the labours of the Gospel. Is not this plain and manifest to the thought? Can you think at all, and not pronounce heartily: that to labour in knowledge is to build up Jerusalem; and to despise knowledge is to despise Jerusalem and her Builders. And remember: He who despises and mocks a mental gift in another, calling it pride and selfishness and sin, mocks Jesus, the giver of every mental gift, which always appear to the ignorance-loving hypocrite as sins; but that which is a sin in the sight of cruel Man, is not so in the sight of our kind God. Let every Christian, as much as in him lies, engage himself openly and publicly, before all the World, in some mental pursuit for the Building up of Jerusalem.

    I STOOD among my valleys of the south,

    And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel

    Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went

    From west to east against the current of

    Creation, and devour’d all things in its loud

    Fury and thundering course round Heaven and Earth

    By it the Sun was roll’d into an orb;

    By it the Moon faded into a globe,

    Travelling thro’ the night; for from its dire

    And restless fury Man himself shrunk up

    Into a little root a fathom long.

    And I askèd a Watcher and a Holy One

    Its name. He answer’d: ‘It is the Wheel of Religion.’

    I wept and said: ‘Is this the law of Jesus,

    This terrible devouring sword turning every way?’

    He answer’d: ‘Jesus died because He strove

    Against the current of this Wheel: its name

    Is Caiaphas, the dark Preacher of Death,

    Of sin, of sorrow, and of punishment,

    Opposing Nature. It is Natural Religion.

    But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life,

    Creating Nature from this fiery Law

    By self-denial and Forgiveness of Sin.

    Go, therefore, cast out devils in Christ’s name,

    Heal thou the sick of spiritual disease,

    Pity the evil; for thou art not sent

    To smite with terror and with punishments

    Those that are sick, like to the Pharisees,

    Crucifying, and encompassing sea and land,

    For proselytes to tyranny and wrath.

    But to the Publicans and Harlots go:

    Teach them true happiness, but let no curse

    Go forth out of thy mouth to blight their peace.

    For Hell is open’d to Heaven; thine eyes beheld

    The dungeons burst, and the prisoners set free.’

    England! awake! awake! awake!

    Jerusalem thy sister calls!

    Why wilt thou sleep the sleep of death,

    And close her from thy ancient walls?

    Thy hills and valleys felt her feet

    Gently upon their bosoms move:

    Thy gates beheld sweet Zion’s ways;

    Then was a time of joy and love.

    And now the time returns again:

    Our souls exult, and London’s towers

    Receive the Lamb of God to dwell

    In England’s green and pleasant bowers.