Please explain the symbolism in the plate illustration for "Holy Thursday" from William Blake's Songs of Experience.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In order to answer this question, I encourage you to identify the images present both in the plate illustration and the poem itself, then analyze the meaning of these images.

A few images that stick out in the poem that appear to be presented in the plate as well, are the following:

  • The idea of "A rich and fruitful land" as shown by the green fields, water, and trees compared to "fields...bleak and bare...eternal winter" as shown by the tree without leaves or fruit.
  • "children poor," and "land of poverty," as shown by the images of people, naked, forlorn, or laying on the ground, compared to the one clothed in blue who might be the "cold and usurous hand."

To me, the poem is a comparison of a contradiction, extreme wealth vs. extreme poverty.  The plate seems to depict each together, so that the extreme of one reveals the extreme of the other.  What do you think?

 

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