William Blake was an English poet and painter that lived from 1757 to 1827, but first acknowledged as a great writer after his death. He was fascinated by the bible, but against any organized religion. Some people believe he was homosexual because his poems often referred to that, but he was married and had kids for a time. He was against all the rules and empty norms Christianity had, and thought marriage had too many rules.
The first two stanzas have a rhyme scheme of ABCB, but the last one is ABCD with an internal rhyme in the last line. All three stanzas are divided up in 4 lines each. The poet speaker talks about the past, where he went to the garden of love First stanza: “I went to the Garden of Love”
The speaker says, “I went to the Garden of Love,” showing that he went to a place known as the “Garden of Love.” He has been there before, but this time he sees that someone has built a chapel. The chapel is taking place “on the green” where the speaker used to play. Playing shows he wants to be active and playful, and he is disturbed that someone has built a building that probably symbolizes the opposite of his desires. Instead of “play” the chapel represents stillness and quietness for worship. But this speaker does not want to worship; he wants to “play.” Second stanza: “And the gates of this Chapel were shut”
The speaker notes that the “gates of this Chapel were shut.” The chapel would have a door—not “gates.” And after, the speaker then claims that “over the door” was written, “Thou shalt not.” The speaker may not see any difference of “gates” and “door” to the chapel. He is already observing the “Garden of Love” with its gates/door shut. Third stanza: “And I saw it was filled with graves”
Apparently, this other “garden of love,” to which he turned after he looked away from the chapel, is “filled with graves.” And there are “tombstones where flowers should be.” The speaker then sees “Priests in black gowns.” They are “walking their rounds / And binding with briars my joys and desires.” The contrast of chapel and garden, of door and gates, of tombstones and flowers, and briars and desires shows that everything has changed in a bad way. The last line indicates that his desires for example playing in the garden has been wrapped in briars, which Jesus also had on his head when he got crucified.
Knowing about William Blake’s background I think the poem is about his hate to organized religion, especially Christianity. All of the “fun” in the religion has been taken away. Everything has rules, and the church threatens you to live a life without sins, or you will burn up in hell. Back then the church was very powerful, and some places ruled countries. William Blake was against religions having control in a country, and that is what I think he means with this poem.
Courtney from Study Moose
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