I stood among my valleys of the south

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I stood among my valleys of the south is a poem by William Blake. It forms part of his prophetic book Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion (not to be confused with his poem Jerusalem beginning "And did those feet in ancient time"). The poem begins with a scathing attack on organised religion and a call for a return to the example set by Jesus.

Criticism of organised religion[edit]

The first section is as follows:

I stood among my valleys of the south,
And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel
Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went
From west to east against the current of
Creation, and devour'd all things in its loud
Fury and thundering course round Heaven and Earth
By it the Sun was roll'd into an orb;
By it the Moon faded into a globe,
Travelling thro' the night; for from its dire
And restless fury Man himself shrunk up
Into a little root a fathom long.
And I askèd a Watcher and a Holy One
Its name. He answer'd: `It is the Wheel of Religion.'
I wept and said: `Is this the law of Jesus,
This terrible devouring sword turning every way?'
He answer'd: `Jesus died because He strove
Against the current of this Wheel: its name
Is Caiaphas, the dark Preacher of Death,
Of sin, of sorrow, and of punishment,
Opposing Nature. It is Natural Religion.
But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life,
Creating Nature from this fiery Law
By self-denial and Forgiveness of Sin.

Commentary[edit]

Criticism of the hypocrisy of institutional religion has rarely found a more powerful expression. Institutional religion has often lead to judgemental, controlling, persecuting policies that stress dogma and conformance, which is contrary to the New Testament.

The "Watcher and a Holy One" is probably a Watcher angel referred to in Daniel Daniel 4:13 Bible-icon.png, 17, 23, and in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, among other sources

According to the Bible, Sanhedrin trial of Jesus took place in Caiaphas's house Matthew 27:1 Bible-icon.png. It is likely that it was Caiaphas who questioned Jesus and recommended his death sentence for blasphemy. According to Blake, Caiaphas has been taken as the role model for institutional religion rather than Jesus.

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