“And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time”(Preface to Milton) By Blake
Visionary poetry is highly personal. In it not only thought tends to become obscure but language embodying thought also becomes hard to understand. The use of symbols, similes, metaphors, and other devices makes communication rather difficult than rendering it easy since these figures of speech are nebulous as the thought of the poet is hazy and far-fetched. Such dark and complex works are the despair of scholars even as there can be no precise explanation of their content.
Blake’s lyric, ‘And Did Those Feet‘ is not that difficult but ‘those feet’ in the beginning is the first puzzle a reader encounters. A clue to it can reveal the whole truth of the lyric. Blake holds that the Druids of Celtic Britain were the first holy people who brought the noble message of God to the people of England. Blake believes that the teachings of Christianity were not only followed in Jerusalem but also in England in ancient times.
The subject of building a new Heaven and a new Earth has been very popular among poets who listened to the Biblical prophecy of the Apocalypse and hoped that Christ’s second coming will usher in an age of peace and happiness in the holy city of New Jerusalem. The belief, that the Fall of Man is the cause of the fallen world, supports the belief that the passing away of noble values from the world and the degeneration of society will bring destruction and finally a dream and desire of “the regeneration of the human race” and building of a new heaven and a new earth, will take hold of man.
“The Nature of my works is Visionary of Imaginative; it is an Endeavor to Restore what the Ancients called the Golden Age”
.Now the coming together of Christ and New Jerusalem is not put in Biblical metaphor. Now it is regarded as the reintegration of man’s inner faculties into spiritual unity, or integration of man’s mind and the external world. The new heaven and new earth of the Revelation are now available to each man through his visionary and imaginative triumph over his senses and logic-chopping understanding.
Blake’s battle against evil is an imaginative and spiritual battle that can bring about a positive bringing him back to his lost world of peace and pleasure. His style has biblical grandeur. His language demands practice and training in deciphering it, particularly the language he employed in the ‘Prophetic Books’.
The third stanza has a repetition of ‘Bring me’ to show the poet’s passionate desire to prepare for a battle to fight evil and build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land‘. The use of metaphors like ‘those feet’. ‘the holy Lamb of God’, ‘the Countenance Divine’, ‘clouded hills’, ‘dark Satanic mills’, ‘bow of burning gold, ‘arrows of desire’, ‘chariot of fire’, demands from a reader at least some knowledge of the Bible and visionary mystic poetry understand the meaning of the lyric.