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World Poetry Month: Day Twenty Five
Today’s poetry is ‘The Garden of Love, ’ a poem by William Blake. Despite being devoutly religious, Blake had some major disagreements with organized religion at the time.
According to the poem, religion should be about love, freedom, and joy, not rules and restrictions.
He published the poem in 1789 as part of his collection Songs of Innocence and Experience.
In “The Garden of Love,” Blake takes aim at organized religion for placing unwieldy and unnecessary restrictions on people’s lives.
It binds love with rules and prevents people from embracing joy, desire, and community, which are all natural and important aspects of life according to the poem.
As the poem begins, the speaker finds a chapel standing in the titular garden. There has been a kind of takeover in the garden: it used to be full of “sweet flowers” and a fun place to play as a child, but now it is filled with tombstones and somber priests.
Though the poem could be argued to apply to organized religion in general, the “chapel” and “priests” are explicitly associated with Christianity. This image clearly illustrates religion bulldozing over life’s joys, the “sweet flowers.”
Furthermore, the chapel’s gates are closed and topped off with a stern sign that reads, “Thou shalt not,” though it is intended to facilitate an understanding of God within its community.
This phrase recalls the biblical Ten Commandments, the list of rules that God set forth for humanity to follow.
Religious doctrine has created a world of restrictions in which people are literally locked out from “love” as they grow older, far from allowing love to flourish.
These priests walking around the garden binding up the speaker’s “joys and desires” represent a small group of elites, dressed in black to symbolize death.
There are also graves and tombstones in place of the flowers that used to flourish in the garden. Thus, organized religion is in fact inimical to the love it preaches; by enforcing rules and restrictions, love has become deadened.
The crucial thing to remember is that this doesn’t necessarily mean God has been rejected.
As a result, the poem seems to argue that religion has lost its way because it has become too focused on punishing sin.
Rather than bringing religious understanding to the people, the priests in the poem are trying to ensure that there is no “joy” or “desire” left in the garden.
Thus, the poem retells the story of the Garden of Eden, the biblical paradise from which Adam and Eve were rejected after eating from the Tree of Knowledge and introducing sin into the world.
In this poem, it is organized religion itself that has fallen. It argues that the church has lost its way by becoming too enmeshed in rules and restrictions, rather than encouraging people to love in any way they can.
“The Garden of Love” is named so for a reason: when joy and desire flourished, it flourished, but now is dying with the chapel and humorless priests.
This poem represents a struggle that goes to the crux of what it means to be human, with the poem arguing that love is more important than fear, shame, and restrictions.
Thus, the poem portrays humanity’s relationship with religion in a bleak light. The dogma of organized religion threatens to destroy love-whether romantic, sexual, or spiritual.
According to the poem, people should fight against that, reclaiming the Garden of Love for themselves.
‘The Garden of Love’ By William Blake ▶️
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 turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.
somehow they get buried
जैसे-तैसे किसी कोने में दफ़्न हो जाती हैं
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