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This is one of Blake's illustrations to The Divine Comedy by the medieval poet Dante. Blake used a new English translation of the poem which was seen as a major contribution to our national literature. Blake's ambitious response to the text was also informed by nationalism. Dante describes an imagined pilgrimage, guided by the poet Virgil, through Hell and Purgatory to Paradise. Here Dante and Virgil look down into Limbo, where they see Homer, holding a sword, and other poets. Homer celebrated the Trojan war; Blake, opposed to war, described the Greek and Roman poets as 'slaves of the sword'.

October 2001