Saturday, April 03, 2010

Blake's Quakers

Consider the possibility that a person may hold values substantially identical with Quaker values without being a Quaker, even without ever having heard of Quakers. As an irregular Quaker I have always been avid to discover non-Quakers among those two options; the first of them certainly applies to William Blake.

Look up Pendle Hill Pamphlet 177 and see what Friend Mildred Binn had to say about that (named Woolman and Blake).

1. Blake found war just about as distasteful as Quakers did; this occurs continually in his poetry, but look at these lines in London:
"How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls."

2. Blake emphatically opposed slavery, as did the Quakers; his works are full of witness to this, especially the tender, heart-stopping, Little Black Boy.

3. Blake loved the poor as much as any Quaker; this led to his overwhelming contempt for the Industrial Revolution, which if nothing else, impoverished thousands who filled the ghettos of London.

4: Economic: here the recorded attitudes of Blake and the Quakers of his day indirectly suggest a divergence. "The Quakers came to Pennsylvania to do good; they did very well." (Do you see the innuendo there?)

The Quakers were said to be scrupulously honest in their dealings, but IMO scrupulously honest industrialists don't become rich. Here scrupulous honesty comes up against the profit motive. Woolman never got rich, but of course he never became an industrialist.

We might compare the Industrial Revolution with globalization, both of them revolutionary innovations of the economic world.

Quakers were in the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, which (imo) explains Blake's curious failure ever to mention the Quakers.

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