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The Symbolism of Christ
William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Jonathan Swift were very different writes but are bound by basic Christian beliefs. In their writings there are strong references to Christ and symbolic images of Him. Blake writes “The Lamb” as a symbolic representative of Christ. Coleridge uses many form of religious symbolism in his poem “The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner”, but the thing that stands out the most is how the albatross represents Christ. Swift writes in “Gulliver’s Travels”, of a man named Pedro de Mendez who is a savior to Gulliver. These three authors show us how Christian views and Jesus are a part of life not just in the Bible but also in current society. Blake uses our questions about faith to emphasize the importance of Christ in our lives.
Blake emphasizes the connection of which the child is naturally aware, when he writes, “I, a child, and thou a lamb, We are called by his name”(p.1289). The tone, however, is the genuine simplicity of a child’s speech. The first verse is a series of questions addressed to the lamb,
which represents Jesus. The second stanza begins with the child being able to answer those questions. Blake writes, “Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee”(p.1289). Meaning that the child understands Christ being the savior. These questions are asked purely for the satisfaction that it gives the child in answering and to show the child’s understanding of God. Blake shows Christ in a way that is innocent like the child. Blake writes this poem using the example of the lamb found in nature to represent Christ and uses the child to represent man trying to understand God. Blake uses the lamb to represent Christ in nature in the same way that Coleridge uses the albatross to represent Christ in nature.
Coleridge uses religious and natural symbolism, which correspond with one another and play the most important roles in this poem. Although there are many different interpretations of this poem, one idea that has remained common throughout the poem is that of the religious symbolism present. Especially that of Christ and his ability to save, which was present throughout this poem. The symbolism is that of the albatross. The albatross saves the Mariner for bad weather and keeps the sailors in
good health just as Christ healed and kept His people from evil. Coleridge writes that a spirit similar to God,
“loved the bird that loved the man who shot him with his bow”(p.1498). Those lines are an analogy with God who loved his son who loved the men that killed Him. The Mariner is shown as the people how turned from Christ and killed Him even though Jesus continued to love them. Coleridge also has the Mariner hang the albatross around his neck like a crucifix. The “crossbow” used to kill the albatross symbolizes the “cross” on which Jesus was nailed. Coleridge uses the albatross to symbolize Christ and the Mariner is the example of man losing faith and struggling to regain his faith in God. Coleridge uses the albatross as an example of a savior in the same way that Swift uses Pedro de Mendez as a savior to Gulliver.
“Gulliver’s Travels”, written by Swift, shows us that man is naturally inclined toward evil, yet his own reason can bring him to a knowledge of moral truth. The connection of the fourth voyage to this theory is obvious. The Yahoos symbolize man as the hopeless sinner. The Houyhnhnms symbolize man, directed by reason, into the path of righteousness and God. Gulliver tries to become a Houyhnhnm but they cannot reason that he has the ability to be the same. Gulliver doesn’t realize that reason isn’t the only way to God until he meets Pedro de Mendez. Mendez
represents Christ in that he saves Gulliver and takes him in to feed, clothe, and provide a place for Gulliver to
rest. Mendez treats Gulliver as an equal even though Gulliver treats Mendez as a lesser Yahoo, as Christ loved all even those who betrayed Him. Swift shows how Gulliver questions and tries to understand Christ just like Blake shows the child trying to understand Christ. In all three stories there is a person who questions faith and a figure that tries to bring light to this question of faith.
These three writers all share a common problem with a major character and find an answer to that problem in their Christian belief of Christ’s existence and love. Blake uses the child to question his creator and the lamb to represent Christ. The lamb answers by telling the child that their kingdom is that of God. Coleridge shows how man questions God’s kingdom and destroys it but how Christ still saves man from straying from the path that leads us to His kingdom.
Swift uses Gulliver to show how man questions faith but then uses Mendez to represent Christ who believes in faith. All three authors write from very Christian views and show how Christ is present in all people’s lives. They show us that the image of Christ can be seen in many things
and that Christ directs us to faith. These writers use the symbolism of Christ in many different parts of nature, to show that He represents all that Christians believe.
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