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Blake's 'The Garden of Love'


I laid me down upon a bank,
Where Love lay sleeping;
I heard among the rushes dank
Weeping, weeping.

Then I went to the heath and the wild,
To the thistles and thorns of the waste;
And they told me how they were beguiled,
Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.

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 turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.


The Garden of Love is a poem that is describing the corrupting effect organized religion has upon mankind. It places most of its emphasis on religion's ability to replace simple joys with rules and regulations ("And binding with briars my joys and desires".) Blake is saying that religion doesn't allow us to live freely. Simple tasks that should be enjoyable and free to do at will are not. By saying that the doors of the chapel are shut, Blake is commenting on the exclusive privilege of those who attend the church. The Garden of Love represents innocence and simplicity; and now that it is filled with graves and all of the flowers are gone it really says a lot about the effect the church has had on society. My favorite part of the poem is definitely the last stanza. It has a very powerful effect on the reader, and any doubt the reader might have had as to what the poem might really be about is quickly put to rest. (“And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds”.) Blake is very obvious about his thoughts on religion within his poetry, connecting back to the Romanticism point of view. The Romantics did not believe that religion should tell us how we should live, and this poem really illustrates this. Innocence is also represented in this poem with the open spaces and green field, and Blake often makes similar references within his other works. The altered landscape also represents that something has changed within the speaker, especially the detail and the way it is described. For some reason, whenever I read this poem I think of playing in fields as a kid and the great sense of freedom that comes along with it. No parents to watch your every move, and no limits to how far you can run or how many flowers you can pick. The ultimate sense of freedom. I can see how Blake often referred to green in his poems and why it represented freedom.  This causes me to connect with what Blake is saying, that no one should control the way they want to live because of a controlling church in society.