“….(Blake) neither wrote nor drew for the many, hardly for work`y-day men at all, rather for children, and angels; himself a `divine child,` whose playthings were sun, moon, and stars, the heavens and the earth.”
~~ Alexander Gilchrist, The Life of William Blake (1863) ~~
One frosty morn on Peckham Rye, the young William Blake saw the archangel Gabriel sitting in a tree; for one who conversed with birds and angels, and bore witness to the ghost of a flea, this was not an unusual occurrence. Blake lived in the teeming metropolis of London, where revolutionary thought nourished his poetic soul: a Babylon of illicit pleasures, vices, an open sewer of moral depravity, single minded capitalist commerce without room for humanity or generosity of spirit, grinding poverty, and extreme wealth.
The famous cemetery of Bunhill Fields, in the middle of the old city, was the perfect example of the casual indifference towards the divine spark in God`s great creation of human life: it groaned and bulged at it`s over stretched seams with the bodies of the late incumbents of the city; where to put the old corpse when a new one is ready to be returned to the Lord`s welcoming bosom? Simple really: just crush it under foot to a manageable pulp, and put the new resident on top; in such a logical way, Bunhill rises relentlessly skyward as layer upon layer of the dearly departed are placed one upon the other, like a sky rise apartment of the dead. In such a seemingly forsaken world, William Blake walked as a prophet of the imagination, the tender heart and soul, and keeper of the gates of heaven.
” I give you the end of a golden string:
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you into Heaven`s Gate
Built in Jerusalem`s wall.”
Blake saw heaven and hell all around him: biblical and mystical imagery had buried itself deep within his soul, and flowed as a torrent of words from his open, and receptive mind. Literature is a golden string that can place us within the warp and weave of minds long gone from us, by winding the words that connect us to them into a ball, and leading us through the heavenly gate of wisdom and knowledge. Literature can make us more human, more humane and understanding; Blake was telling us that Jerusalem can be found here on earth, built with kind words of wisdom and Godly intentions. Every book, is a heavenly city of knowledge and a wonder unto itself. We just need to open our hearts and eyes and gaze into the infinity.