My entry this week is inspired by the discussion that took place in a tutorial that I was not part of but heard through Windows Media Player thanks to MG who taped the interactions. It was all about the poem “Mary” that was written by Blake and shows great comparison with Oothoon from his “Visions of the Daughters of Albion”- a well-respected woman that become ‘ruined’ when her slave master raped her and striped her of her dignity. In the same sense, Mary, the persona of the poem, is set up in the first three stanzas to be a virtuous, loved, angel… from the heavenly Climes”, with a sweet, innocent and untouched face and a beautiful personality that compliments her. Her name in itself and the poet’s intention to set it in the month of May (a month dedicated to Mary in Christian calendar) links her to the heavenly mother Mary, mother of God and hence endows her with a rich sense of power and gentle, genuineness.
Mary, although an angel, can perhaps be a figure that represents Blake in the world because just as he (and any human) was sent by God to Earth, she is actually willing to explore her sexuality and be involved in humanly things. So the fact that Blake positions her as a pure being, he too suggests that innocent people are connected to humanity and our sinful “envious race”. Beginning in third person, the reader becomes aware that Mary attended a party and perhaps went home the next day a changed woman due to a sexual experience that she encountered. Much like Oothoon really, Mary is then (in first person) treated as an outcast and is completely torn down by her gossipy society and their hatred for those who are beautiful. It seems though that the people are missing some part of themselves, which could be Mary because they have expelled her from their lives. They condemn her and scorn her for being human and a woman, in particular, because her actions were unacceptable. It is also very Blakean with its comment that innocence is always ruined by experience and that the external world is always present to pass judgment so in fact, no human is ever truly free. We could ask if the piece was autobiographical, not because Blake was comparing himself with Mary’s promiscuousness, but rather his own outlandish ways that he was constantly pilloried for.
The concluding stanzas of the poem further suggest that Mary either turns her back on oppression and lives her own life and proclaims freedom or that her experience is a horrible case of victimization and she is now a ruined female forever. I personally believe the latter because of its link to reality and the fact that this woman that was once part of a conforming whole, enjoyed herself one night to the society’s distaste and is now set apart for the entirety of her life. It is just all to similar to Oothoon’s horrific experience that led to her husband’s own moral conflicts that barricaded him from loving her again.