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I Saw a Chapel Analysis

Author: Poetry of William Blake Type: Poetry Views: 882

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1I saw a chapel all of gold

2That none did dare to enter in,

3And many weeping stood without,

4Weeping, mourning, worshipping.

5I saw a serpent rise between

6The white pillars of the door,

7And he forc'd and forc'd and forc'd,

8Down the golden hinges tore.

9And along the pavement sweet,

10Set with pearls and rubies bright,

11All his slimy length he drew

12Till upon the altar white

13Vomiting his poison out

14On the bread and on the wine.

15So I turn'd into a sty

16And laid me down among the swine.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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The golden chapel, beset with pearls and rubies, symbolizes a church that is besotted with its own wealth and grandeur. Genuinely Christian worshippers stand outside it, lamenting its narcissism and abjuring its rituals. The church is now vulnerable to usurpation by the devil. Satan, in his ancient guise as a serpent, desecrates the body and blood of Christ and paves the way for a Black Mass. As the earlier critic noted, Satan appears to be literally raping the church, first forcing open its maidenhead and then thrusting his outstretched phallus along the aisle to ejaculate on the bread and wine.
If the church has been seized by the devil, then what hope is there for Christians? The despairing witness takes sanctuary in a pigsty. No one casts pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet. He should be safe there from the treasure that corrupted the established church.
Even for Blake, the imagery was too shocking for him to publish the poem in his lifetime.

| Posted on 2011-08-24 | by a guest

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Thanks for it may help. But what about the last image of the speaker \"turned into a sty\" and \"laid down among the swine\" ? How is to articulate the sty / swine symbolism, supposedly related to accomplish the freeing of the human desire, with the rest of the poem ?
This appear ambiguous to me... though I love this beautiful back to \"earth\" ending. I guess that human \"turning to\" pigs now recover their true and desireful humanity, beyond church restriction...

| Posted on 2011-05-03 | by a guest

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It is undeniable that Blake is disgusted with the corrupt nature of the established church, but the image of the serpent, and the use of white and gold in the portrayal of the church may have an alternative meaning. The references to gold and precious jewels may represent the growing wealth and power of the church to the detriment of the rest of society, and the serpent in many of Blake's poems has been read as a representation of Emmanuel Swedenborg, an ex-friend of Blake who shared his disgust in the church, but instead of destroying it as he intended to do (and perhaps as Blake thought Swedenborg should do), he instead perverted it to his own purposes to gain his own following and gather power for himself. Swedenborg is also briefly referred to by name in the Argument of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

| Posted on 2008-08-22 | by a guest

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At first glance, the poem seems to be talking about the Christian Church's continual struggle against its enemy, the Devil symbolised by the serpent. However, the images Blake chooses to use indicate that he feels that the established church has lost its positive qualities and become corrupt. The true believers are pictured as being in mourning over this state of affairs, and the fact that they are "without" suggests that true believers feel excluded from the established church, either by their own choice or because they no longer fit in - "none did dare to enter in". The Serpent, I feel, is a deliberately phallic symbol used to show how the church has been desecrated. Reading the poem, one almost feels that it is an actual rape being described. the church is represented as a virtuous virgin through the use of colour and precious elements. White is usually a symbol of purity. Gold, for a long time represented the most precious and valuable items. Rubies is another Christian allusion. Solomon describes a viruous woman as being priced "above rubies" and in time, rubies were used to sympolise chastity. The serpent is seen as "raping" the churh and robbing it of its virtue and at the climax of this he vomits or ejaculates "his poison out/On the bread and on the wine". Blake is clearly expressing his digust of the established church in this poem.

| Posted on 2005-07-27 | by Approved Guest

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