The secret to unlocking this poem, 'A Divine Image' by William Blake is in the title. Blake correctly reminds that it is declared in Genesis that mankind, humanity was created in the divine image of God, our alleged perfect creator. Both quatrains of this poem immediately declare a denial any perfection or divine image, in the state of fallen humanity.
Blake focuses totally upon dark images and faults within people, who deny love compassion forgiveness kindness; and this theme of an inability to love, a passion to hate, is the entire theme and meaning of the poem. Failures in the character of base humans, are described as a succinct list, of several of the most despicable treacherous, human characteristics; listed as Cruelty, Jealousy, Terror and Secresy in the first quatrain. Each characteristic is capitalized for emphasis and used to describe the condition of the human heart, face, form and dress of the fallen state of humanity.
Blake declares we secretly hide our motives intentions deceits behind clothes, meant to symbolize our evolved civilization, but in reality necessary after the fall of Adam and Eve, created in God's image divine, but now estranged from the divine. The next stanza focuses upon negative aspects of the human condition; clothes or the dress, 'forged iron', form 'a fiery forge', face 'a furnace sealed' and lastly 'The human heart its hungry gorge'. The last emphasis is the terrible greed of humanity, consuming, feeding upon insatiable lust, devouring. The symbolism strongly suggests warfare, forged weapons of iron, the conquest of armies in hate, cruelty; yet perhaps to beat swords into plough shares. The genius, mastery of Blake, is to say so much, imply so much more through title and symbolism. An excellent example of a highly crafted succinct poem rich in extended metaphors. William Blake is one of my favourite poets and artists.
I think he is telling us not to put down blame for all bad things to the temptation of the Devil, but to accept responsibility for our dark side.
Also it can mean not to dehumanise our enemies, which we like to do so that we can justify our revenge.
How often have we heard the phrase 'cruel and inhuman'? Yet we know that cruelty is human.
Inside every human is a fiery complex spirit, where the fight between our good and evil thoughts occur. Sometimes we can be very cruel even while thinking we are being so good or doing so good. Our faces and dress can hide these conflictions within quite well. Many times we allow our hearts to do our thinking for us, sometimes it is good and sometimes it can allow us to be suckered into lies. The heart is always hungry for love and with that will always come a willingness to accept even a lying tongue. Whether one yearns for love, or fame, or power, or money, we tend to see and justify ourselves as having good intent, when sometimes we know that's not at all true.
A very good poem by Blake, the master who makes one think. Though I feel it's structure is not as good as many of His poems are.