THE CONFLICT IN EXPERIENCE
WITHOUT an understanding of Blake's associative symbolism, A Song of Liberty can only carry a general effect for the reader, with a good deal left as contradictory or inexplicable. The symbolism is fully formed, and in it the conflict is realized. And how controlled this symbolism is, and how free from haphazard direction is evinced in interpretation. A Song of Liberty is as concentrated in action as The French Revolution is diffuse, and its only meaning is a poetic meaning.
'The Eternal Female' of phrase 1 is primarily the Universal Church. We begin the poem with revolt already under way. The Eternal Female dominates Albion, and even America (the land associated, for Blake, with freedom1), where the revolt originates. The particular aspects of Albion and America that Blake mentions are important, as they control the reader's response. Our attention is drawn to Albion's coast, and to America's meadows; Albion, and the coast, near the sea--a symbol for established religion and tyranny--are aged and silent; the meadows of America, the land of freedom, recall the meadows of Innocence, and are fresh and young. Both symbols, coast and American plain, recur in identical associations in later books. The forebodings of revolt, originating by 'the lakes and rivers' of America, come across the ocean, and France is called on to tear down the dungeon, 'Golden Spain' to 'burst the barriers of old Rome', and Rome herself to cast away the keys 'and weep'. This final two word injunction in phrase 6 is full of meaning. The dry, barren, stony eyes of religious oppression are to melt in Pity, and tyranny is to turn from petrified arrogance to mild humility. Harsh eyes of stone have already been noticed as one facet of religious domination.
In the seventh phrase 'she', who receives the 'new born terror' of revolt into her trembling hands, is the Eternal Female. The genesis of the 'new born fire' of revolt, which is the antithesis of the sullen flames' of tyrannical power, is located in the 'infinite mountains of light', in America--'barr'd out' from Europe by the Atlantic-- another symbol associated with the familiar tyranny. The 'infinite mountains of light' are themselves the antithesis of the 'grey brow'd
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Publication information: Book title: Infinity on the Anvil:A Critical Study of Blake's Poetry. Contributors: Stanley Gardner - Author. Publisher: Basil Blackwell. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1954. Page number: 46.
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