He sits down with holy fears

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While analysing two of Blake’s some of the poems from The Songs of Innocence and Experience, I was particularly drawn to the first line in the third stanza of The Human Abstract;

 He sits down with holy fears

Who is He? In an earlier version, Blake apparently had called the poem A Human Image, which shows that it was planned as a contrast to The Divine Image. Blake decided to change the title to express the true nature of the human portrayed in the poem.

Then Cruelty knits a snare, 
and spreads his baits with care

Blake uses personification to great effect in this piece. Cruelty is a person as are Humility, Mercy and Mystery.  Perhaps ‘He’ and ‘Cruelty’ is the same person and Blake is presenting Cruelty as an aspect of human nature.  I’m going out on a limb and guess that Blake believes the only reason people attempt to show mercy and humility is that they possess `holy fears’; If we do not act with kindness and goodwill, we face going to Hell.  However, Blake also believes without this fear, Cruelty would win and take over the world.  Humans need this fear to keep us on the path of honour and good deeds.


The Human Image from The Notebook of William Blake, British Library, London.



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