Sunday, February 7, 2010

Because Blake Could Paint Such A Portrait With Words

I'm sure you recognize the Divine Mercy image. Seen in a vision by Sister Faustina in 1931 she was disappointed in the original painting of what she had described.  She thought it would be impossible for any painter to depict Jesus as beautifully as she had seen him.

Long before Sister Faustina's vision in the 20th Century, the English poet William Blake painted the following image with words instead of paint. I came across it in the Harvard Five-Foot Shelf of Books.  Published in 1789 in his collection entitled Songs of Innocence,  it describes four virtues that are both Divine and Human. Which, of course, is true especially since they became one and the same in Our Lord Jesus Christ. Take a look at these simple yet magnificent verses,

The Divine Image by William Blake

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

That collection of the Harvard Classics I purchased for a song at my local library's used book sale just keeps returning dividends.  How elegantly simple are these words and yet how true.  I read them now and they seem as fresh today as if they were written yesterday.  The true mark of a classic is that its beauty is timeless. Wouldn't you agree?

And isn't it uncanny that he writes these words long before Sister Faustina's vision and yet they seem to paint the same portrait? Maybe it's just me but re-read the third stanza. I can't help but wonder if Blake had a similar vision.