William Blake on Nature and God

What do you think of this claim, Blake’s reaction to William Wordsworth’s poem, My Heart leaps Up, in which he asserts that he could wish his “days to be/Bound each to each by natural piety”?

There is no such Thing as Natural Piety Because the Natural Man is at Enmity with God.

Would this be a good quotation to use in a colloquy?

Speaking of that, do you have any quotations on nature that you’d like to see discussed? Let us know; we’re always looking.


2 Responses

  1. Can’t resist giving it a shot. I would say it depends upon what Wordsworth meant by “natural piety”. It doesn’t sound like he is speaking specifically about religious Christian piety, but about a general pious response largely focused around nature. Etymologically, “Piety” seems to mean something like a high kind of respect or reverence and sense of duty and responsible love (the Romans used “pietas” as a word for the response one developed through education and training towards one’s forebears and country). If the Romantics thought of Nature as a kind of wise teacher or even mother (which it seems often they did) then Wordsworth was probably using the word in a different sense than Blake was.

    In the more strictly Christian sense, Piety is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To Blake, it sounds, the “natural” human meant the unredeemed one, so he would object to a gift of the Holy Spirit being disposed on the unregenerate person (guessing, here). Whereas Wordsworth may have been thinking of the “natural” man in different terms…. “natural” as the qualities that the “supernatural” or redeemed qualities build upon. Nature might in that sense inspire the kind of reverence and awe and “piety” that could be the starting point for a more specifically religious response …. as you see in Psalms often.

    Just my take as an English literature major who loves thinking about this sort of thing!

    • Willa

      Thanks for the input. Do you think Blake meant anything Christian by his comment? He seems much more gnostic than Christian to me.

      I think it was Harold Bloom who said that Wordsworth was probably using the term natural piety to refer to his ability to write poetry. Interesting.

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