T. Phillips Schiavonetti
WITH SELECTIONS FROM HIS POEMS AND OTHER WRITINGS
A NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION
ILLUSTRATED FROM BLAKE'S OWN
WITH ADDITIONAL LETTERS AND A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR
Editorial Note (page ornament): Phaeton Press symbol
Originally Published 1880
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 72-90368
CONTENTS OF VOLUME II.
EDITED BY DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI
PHAETON PRESS, INC.
IDEAS OF GOOD AND EVIL.
Introductory Note.. .. .. 85
Where thou dwellest, in what
. .. .. 89
My spectre around me night
. .. .. 90
The Two Songs.
I heard an angel
. .. .. 93
The Defiled Santuary.
I saw a chapel, all
. .. .. 94
Why was Cupid a boy?. .. . .
The Woman taken in Adultery.
of Christ that thou dost see
. . 96
Never seek to
tell thy love
. .. .. 98
The Wild Flower’s Song.
wandered in the forest
. .. .. 99
The Crystal Cabinet.
The maiden caught
me in the wild
. .. .. 100
Smile and Frown.
There is a smile of
. .. .. 102
The Golden Net.
Beneath a white
thorn’s lovely May
. .. .. 103
The Land of Dreams.
Awake, awake, my
. .. .. 104
Sweet Mary, the first time she was
ever was there
. .. .. 105
Auguries of Innocence.
To see a world in
a grain of sand
. .. .. 107
The Mental Traveller.
through a land of men
. .. .. 112
In a Myrtle Shade.
To a lovely myrtle
. .. .. 118
I wonder whether the girls
. .. .. 119
Mock on, mock on, Voltaire,
. .. .. 121
The Agony of Faith.
“I see, I
see,” the mother said
. .. .. 123
To find the western path
. .. .. 124
Thames and Ohio.
Why should I care for
the men of Thames
?. .. .. 124
Are not the joys of morning
. .. .. 125
Since all the riches of the
. .. .. 125
He who bends to himself a
. .. .. 126
Thou hast a lapful of
. .. .. 126
I feared the fury of my
. .. .. 127
Night and Day.
Silent, silent night
. .. .. 127
Love and Deceit.
Love to faults is
. .. .. 128
Couplets and Fragments. .. .. 129
Epigrams and Satirical Pieces on Art and Artists. . .
ANNOTATED CATALOGUE OF BLAKE'S PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS.
By William Michael Rossetti.
- Introductory Note. .. .. 205
- List I. Works in Colour.
Section a. Dated Works. .. ..
Section b. Undated Works,
Biblical and Sacred. . 235
- Ditto Ditto
Poetic and Miscellaneous. . . .. 245
- List II. Uncoloured Works.
Section a. Dated Works. . ..
Section b. Undated Works,
Biblical and Sacred. . 264
- Ditto Ditto
Poetic and Miscellaneous. . . .. ..
- List III. Works of Unascertained Method.
Biblical and Sacred .. .. .. 275
Poetic and Miscellaneous .. .. .. 275
Items from the Sale Satalogues of Mr. George
. .. .. 276
Items from the Catalogue of an Exhibition of Blake's
Works in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, U.S.A.
. .. .. 276
- Accounts between Blake and Mr. Butts.. .. .. .. .. . 278
- List of Engravings.
Works designed as well as engraved by Blake.. ..
Works engraved, but not designed by Blake.. ..
Works designed, but not engraved by Blake.. ..
- List of Writings.. .. .. .. .. 283
- Prospectus by Blake issued in 1793.. .. .. 285
- Descriptive Notes of the Designs to Young's “Night
Thoughts,” by Frederic James Shields.. .. ..289
- Essay on Blake by James Smetham.. .. ..309
- In Memoriam F. O. Finch, by Samuel Palmer.. .. ..353
- Memoir of Alexander Gilchrist, by Anne Gilchrist.. ..
Note: There is an illustration on this page.
- I give you the end of a golden string:
- Only wind it into a ball,
- It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
- Built in Jerusalem wall.
Note: There is an illustration on this page.
There is no need for many futher critical remarks on
selections from the Poetical Sketches, which have already been
spoken of in Chap. VI. of the
Life. Among the lyrical pieces here
chosen, it would be difficult to
award a distinct preference. These
Songs are certainly among the small
class of modern times which
recall the best period of English song writing,
whose rarest treasures
lie scattered among the plays of our Elizabethan
deserve no less than very high admiration in a quite
which cannot be even qualified by the slight hasty or
fections of execution to be met with in some of them, though
means in all. On the other hand, if we view them comparatively;
in relation to Blake’s youth when he wrote them, or the poetic
in which they were produced; it would be hardly possible to
rate their astonishing merit. The same return to the diction and
high feeling of greater age is to be found in the unfinished play of
Edward the Third, from which some fragments are included here.
In the original
edition, however, these are marred by frequent imper-
fections in the metre
(partly real and partly dependent on careless
printing), which I have
thought it best to remove, as I found it
possible to do so without once in
the slightest degree affecting the
originality of the text. The same has
been done in a few similar
instances elsewhere. The poem of
Blind Man’s Buff stands in
curious contrast with the rest, as an effort in another
though less excellent, is not without interest. Besides what
given, there are attempts in the very modern-antique style of
prevalent at the time, and in Ossianic prose, but all naturally
inferior, and probably earlier. It is singular that, for formed
and purely literary qualities, Blake perhaps never afterwards
the best things in this youthful volume, though he often did so
melody and feeling, and more than did so in depth of thought.
- My silks and fine array,
- My smiles and languished air,
- By love are driven away.
- And mournful lean Despair
- Brings me yew to deck my grave:
- Such end true lovers have.
- His face is fair as heaven
- When springing buds unfold;
- Oh, why to
him was’t given,
10Whose heart is wintry cold?
- His breast is Love’s all-worshipped tomb
- Where all love’s pilgrims come.
- Bring me an axe and spade
- bring me a winding-sheet;
- When I my grave have made,
- Let winds and tempests beat:
- Then down I’ll lie, as cold as clay.
- True love doth pass away!
- Love and harmony combine
- And around our souls entwine,
- While thy branches mix with mine
- And our roots together join.
- Joys upon our branches sit,
- Chirping loud and singing sweet;
- Like gentle streams beneath our feet,
- Innocence and virtue meet.
- Thou the golden fruit dost bear,
10I am clad in flowers fair;
- Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
- And the turtle buildeth there.
- There she sits and feeds her young;
- Sweet I hear her mournful song:
- And thy lovely leaves among,
- There is Love: I hear his tongue.
- There his charm’d nest he doth lay,
- There he sleeps the night away,
- There he sports along the day,
20And doth among our branches play.
- I love the jocund dance,
- The softly-breathing song,
- Where innocent eyes do glance,
- Where lisps the maiden’s tongue.
- I love the laughing vale,
- I love the echoing hill,
- Where mirth does never fail,
- And the jolly swain laughs his fill.
- I love the pleasant cot,
10I love the innocent bower,
- Where white and brown is our lot,
- Or fruit in the mid-day hour.
- I love the oaken seat
- Beneath the oaken tree,
- Where all the old villagers meet,
- And laugh our sports to see.
- I love our neighbours all,
- But, Kitty, I better love thee:
- And love them I ever shall,
20But thou art all to me.
- The wild winds weep,
- And the night is a-cold;
- Come hither, Sleep,
- And my griefs unfold!
- But lo! The Morning peeps
- Over the eastern steeps,
- And rustling birds of dawn
- The earth do scorn.
- Lo! to the vault
10Of paved heaven,
- With sorrow fraught,
- My notes are driven:
- They strike the ear of night,
- Make weep the eyes of day;
- They make mad the roaring winds,
- And with tempests play.
- Like a fiend in a cloud
- With howling woe
- After night I do crowd,
20And with night will go;
- I turn my back to the East
- Whence comforts have increas’d;
- For light doth seize my brain
- With frantic pain.
- How sweet I roamed from field to field,
- And tasted all the summer’s pride,
- ’Till I the Prince of Love beheld,
- Who in the sunny beams did glide!
- He show’d me lilies for my hair,
- And blushing roses for my brow;
- He led me through his gardens fair,
- Where all his golden pleasures grow.
- With sweet May dews my wings were wet,
10And Phœbus fired my vocal rage;
- He caught me in his silken net,
- And shut me in his golden cage.
- He loves to sit and hear me sing,
- Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;
- Then stretches out my golden wing,
- And mocks my loss of liberty.
- Memory, hither come,
- And tune your merry notes;
- And, while upon the wind
- Your music floats,
- I’ll pore upon the stream
- Where sighing lovers dream,
- And fish for fancies as they pass
- Within the watery glass.
- I’ll drink of the clear stream,
10And hear the linnet’s song;
- And there I’ll lie and dream
- The day along:
- And, when night comes, I’ll go
- To places fit for woe;
- Walking along the darkened valley
- With silent Melancholy.
- Whether on Ida’s shady brow,
- Or in the chambers of the East,
- The chambers of the sun that now
- From ancient melody have ceased;
- Whether in Heaven ye wander fair,
- Or the green corners of the earth,
- Or the blue regions of the air,
- Where the melodious winds have birth;
- Whether on crystal rocks ye rove
10Beneath the bosom of the sea,
- Wandering in many a coral grove;
- Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry;
- How have you left the ancient love
- That bards of old enjoy’d in you!
- The languid strings do scarcely move,
- The sound is forced, the notes are few.
- Thou fair-hair’d angel of the Evening,
- Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
- Thy brilliant torch of love; thy radiant crown
- Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
- Smile on our loves; and whilst thou drawest round
- The curtains of the sky, scatter thy dew
- On every flower that closes its sweet eyes
- In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
- The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
10 And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon
- Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
- And then the lion glares through the dun forest.
- The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
- Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.
- O thou, with dewy locks, who lookest down
- Thro’ the clear windows of the morning, turn
- Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
- Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!
- The hills do tell each other, and the listening
- Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
- Up to thy bright pavilion: issue forth,
- And let thy holy feet visit our clime!
- Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
10 Kiss thy perfumèd garments; let us taste
- Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
- Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.
- O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
- Thy softest kisses on her bosom, and put
- Thy golden crown upon her languish’d head
- Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee.
- O thou who passest thro’ our valleys
- Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
- That flames from their large nostrils! Thou, O Summer!
- Oft pitched’st here thy golden tent, and oft
- Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
- With joy thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.
- Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
- Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
- Rode o’er the deep of heaven. Beside our springs
10 Sit down, and in our mossy valleys; on
- Some bank beside a river clear, throw all
- Thy draperies off, and rush into the stream!
- Our valleys love the Summer in his pride.
- Our bards are famed who strike the silver wire;
- Our youths are bolder than the southern swains;
- Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance;
- We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
- Nor echoes sweet nor waters clear as heaven,
- Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.
- When silver snow decks Susan’s
- And jewel hangs at th’ shepherd’s nose,
- The blushing bank is all my care,
- With hearth so red and walls so fair;
- ‘ Heap the sea-coal, come, heap it higher,
- ‘ The oaken log lay on the fire.’
- The well-washed stools, a circling row,
- With lad and lass, how fair the show!
- The merry can of nut-brown ale,
10The laughing jest, the love-sick tale:
- ’Till, tired of chat, the game begins,
- The lasses prick the lads with pins;
- Roger from Dolly twitched the stool,
- She falling, kissed the ground, poor fool!
- She blushed so red, with side-long glance
- At hob-nail Dick who grieved the chance.
- But now for Blind-man’s Buff they call;
- Of each incumbrance clear the hall!
- Jenny her silken ’kerchief folds,
20And blear-eyed Will the black lot holds;
- Now, laughing, stops, with ‘Silence! Hush!’
- And Peggy Pout gives Sam a push.
- The Blind-man’s arms, extended wide,
- Sam slips between;—O woe betide
- Thee, clumsy Will!—but tittering Kate
- Is penned up in the corner strait!
- And now Will’s eyes beheld the play,
- He thought his face was t’other way.
- Now, Kitty, now! what chance hast thou!
30 Roger so near thee trips!—I vow
- She catches him!—then Roger ties
- His own head up, but not his eyes;
- For thro’ the slender cloth he sees,
- And runs at Sam, who slips with ease
- His clumsy hold; and, dodging round,
- Sukey is tumbled on the ground!
- See what it is to play unfair!
- Where cheating is, there’s mischief there.
- But Roger still pursues the chase,—
40‘He sees! he sees!’ cries softly Grace.
- O Roger, thou, unskill’d in art.
- Must, surer bound, go through thy part!
- Now Kitty, pert, repeats the rhymes,
- And Roger turns him round three times;
- Then pauses ere he starts—But Dick
- Was mischief-bent upon a trick:
- Down on his hands and knees he lay,
- Directly in the Blind-man’s way—
- Then cries out, ‘Hem!’ Hodge heard, and ran
50 With hood-winked chance—sure of his man;
- But down he came.—Alas, how frail
- Our best of hopes, how soon they fail!
- With crimsom drops he stains the ground,
- Confusion startles all around!
- Poor piteous Dick supports his head,
- And fain would cure the hurt he made;
- But Kitty hastens with a key,
- And down his back they straight convey
- The cold relief; the blood is stay’d,
60And Hodge again holds up his head.
- Such are the fortunes of the game;
- And those who play should stop the same
- By wholesome laws: such as,—all those
- Who on the blinded man impose
- Stand in his stead. So, long a-gone,
- When men were first a nation grown,
- Lawless they lived, till wantonness
- And liberty began to increase,
70And one man lay in another’s way:
- Then laws were made to keep fair play.
King.. .. . Our names are written
- In Fame’s wide-trophied halls; ’tis ours
- The letters, and to make them shine with gold
- That never tarnishes: whether Third Edward,
- Or Prince of Wales or Montacute or Mortimer,
- Or e’en the least by birth, gain brightest fame,
- Is in His hand to whom all men are equal.
- The world of men is like the numerous stars
- That beam and twinkle in the depth of night,
10 Each clad in glory according to his sphere:—
- But we that wander from our native seats,
- And beam forth lustre on a darkling world,
- Grow larger as we advance; and some, perhaps
- The most obscure at home, that scarce were seen
- To twinkle in their sphere, may so advance
- That the astonish’d world, with
- Regardless of the moon and those once bright,
- Stand only but to gaze upon their splendour.
He here knights the Prince and other young
- Now let us take a just revenge for those
20 Brave lords who fell beneath the bloody axe
- At Paris. Noble Harcourt, thanks, for ’twas
- By your advice we landed here in Brittany,
- A country not as yet sown with destruction,
- And where the fiery whirlwind of swift war
- Hath not yet swept its desolating wing.
- Into three parties we divide by day,
- And separate march, but join again at night:
- Each knows his rank, and Heaven marshal all.
King. What can Sir Thomas Dagworth
- Request that Edward can refuse?
Dagw. I hope
- Your majesty cannot refuse so mere
- A trifle: I’ve gilt your cause with my best blood,
- And would again, were I not now forbid
- By him whom I am bound to obey. My hands
- Are tied up, all my courage shrunk and wither’d,
- My sinews slacken’d, and my voice scarce heard:
10 Therefore I beg I may return to England.
King. I know not what you could
have ask’d, Sir Thomas,
- That I would not have sooner parted with
- Than such a soldier as you, and such a friend;
- Nay, I will know the most remote particulars
- Of this your strange petition, that if I can
- I still may keep you here.
Dagw. Here on the fields of
Cressy we are settled,
- ‘Till Philip spring the timorous covey again.
- The wolf is hunted down by causeless fear;
20 The lion flees, and fear usurps his heart,
- Startled, astonish’d at the clamorous cock.
- The eagle that doth gaze upon the sun
- Fears the small fire that plays about the fen;
- If at this moment of their idle fear
- The dog seize the wolf, the forester the lion,
- The negro, in the crevice of the rock,
- Seize on the soaring eagle, undone by flight
- They tame submit—such the effect flight has
- On noble souls. Now hear its opposite:
30The timorous stag starts from the thicket wild,
- The fearful crane springs from the plashy fen,
- The shining snake glides o’er the bending grass:
- The stag turns head, and bays the crying hounds,
- The crane o’ertaken fighteth with the hawk,
- The snake cloth turn and bite the padding foot.
- And if your majesty’s afraid of Philip,
- You are more like a lion than a crane:
- Therefore I beg I may return to England.
King. Sir Thomas, now I
understand your mirth,
40 Which often plays with wisdom for its pastime,
- And brings good counsel from the breast of laughter.
- I hope you’ll stay, and see us fight this battle,
- And reap rich harvest in the field of Cressy,
- Then go to England, tell them how we fight,
- And set all hearts on fire to be with us.
- Philip is plum’d, and thinks we flee from him,
- Else he would never dare to attack us. Now,
- Now is the quarry set! and Death doth sport
- In the bright sunshine of this fatal day.
Dagw. Now my heart dances, and I
am as light
- As the young bridegroom going to be married.
- Now must I to my soldiers, get them ready,
- Furbish our armours bright, new plume our helms,
- And we will sing like the young housewives busied
- In the dairy. Now my feet are wing’d, but not
- For flight, an ‘t please your grace.
King. If all my soldiers are as
pleased as you,
- ‘Twill be a gallant thing to fight or die.
- Then I can never he afraid of Philip.
Dagw. A rawbon’d
fellow t’other day pass’d by me;
- I told him to put off his hungry looks;
- He said: ‘I hunger for another battle.’
- I saw a Welshman with a fiery face:
- I told him that he look’d like a candle half
- Burn’d out. He answer’d he was
- To light another pattle.’ Last night beneath
- The moon I walk’d abroad when all had
- Their tents, and all were still:
- I heard a blooming youth singing a song
70He had compos’d, and at each pause he
- His dropping eyes. The ditty was,—‘If
- Return’d victorious he should wed a maiden
- Fairer than snow and rich as midsummer.’
- Another wept, and wish’d health to his father.
- I chid them both, but gave them noble hopes.
- These are the minds that glory in the battle,
- And leap and dance to hear the trumpet sound.
King. Sir Thomas Dagworth, be
thou near our person:
- Thy heart is richer than the vales of France;
80 I will not part with such a man as thou.
- If Philip came arm’d in the ribs of death,
- And shook his mortal dart against my head,
- Thou’dst laugh his fury into nerveless shame!
- Go now, for thou art suited to the work,
- Throughout the camp; inflame the timorous,
- Blow up the sluggish into ardour, and
- Confirm the strong with strength, the weak inspire,
- And wing their brows with hope and expectation:
- Then to our tent return, and meet the Council.
Prince. Now we are alone, Sir
John, I will unburthen
- And breathe my hopes into the burning air,
- Where thousand deaths are posting up and down;
- Commission’d to this fatal field of Cressy.
- Methinks I see them arm my gallant soldiers,
- And gird the sword upon each thigh, and fit
- Each shining helm, and string each stubborn bow,
- And dance unto the neighing of our steeds:
- Methinks the shout begins, the battle burns;
- Methinks I see them perch on English crests,
100 And roar the wild flame of fierce war upon
- The thronged enemy. In truth, I am too full;
- It is my sin to love the noise of war.
- Chandos, thou seest my weakness; for strong Nature
- Will bend or break us. My blood like a spring-tide
- Does rise so high to overflow all bounds
- Of moderation; while Reason in her
- Frail bark can see no shore or bound for vast
- Ambition. Come then, take the helm, my Chandos,
- That my full blown sails overset me not
110In the wild tempest; condemn my venturous youth
- That plays with danger as the innocent child,
- Unthinking, plays upon the viper’s den:
- I am a coward in my reason, Chandos.
Chandos. You are a man, my
Prince, and a brave man,
- If I can judge of actions; but your heat
- Is the effect of youth and want of use;
- Use makes the armed field and noisy war
- Pass over as a cloud does, unregarded,
- Or but expected as a thing of course.
120Age is contemplative; each rolling year
- Doth bring forth fruit to the mind’s treasure
- While vacant Youth doth crave and seek about
- Within itself, and findeth discontent;
- Then, tir’d of thought, impatient takes the wing,
- Seizes the fruits of Time, attacks Experience,
- Roams round vast Nature’s forest, where no bounds
- Are set; the swiftest may have room, the strongest
- Find prey; till, tir’d at length, sated and
- With the still changing sameness, old variety,
130 We sit us down, and view our former joys
- As worthless.
Prince. Then, if we must tug
- Let us not fear to beat round Nature’s wilds
- And rouse the strongest prey; then if we fall,
- We fall with glory: for I know the wolf
- Is dangerous to fight, not good for food,
- Nor is the hide a comely vestment; so
- We have our battle for our pains. I know
- That youth has need of age to point fit prey,
140 And oft the stander-by shall steal the fruit
- Of the other’s labour. This is philosophy;
- These are the tricks of the world; but the pure soul
- Shall mount on wings, disdaining little sport,
- And cut a path into the heaven of glory,
- Leaving a track of light for men to wonder at.
- I’m glad my father does not hear me talk:
- You can find friendly excuses for me, Chandos;
- But, do you not think, Sir John, that if it please
- The Almighty to stretch out my span of life
150 I shall with pleasure view a glorious action
- Which my youth master’d
Chand. Age, my lord, views
- And views not acts. When neither warbling voice
- Nor trilling pipe is heard, nor pleasure sits
- With trembling age, the voice of Conscience, then
- Sweeter than music in a summer’s eve,
- Shall warble round the snowy head, and keep
- Sweet symphony to feather’d angels sitting
- As guardians round your chair; then shall the pulse
160Beat slow; and taste and touch, sight, sound, and smell,
- That sing and dance round Reason’s fine-wrought
- Shall flee away, and lease him all forlorn—
- Yet not forlorn if Conscience is his friend.
Sir Walter. Sir Thomas Dagworth, I
have been a-weeping
- Over the men that are to die to-day.
Dagw. Why, brave Sir Walter, you
or I may fall.
Sir Walter. I know this breathing
flesh must lie and rot
- Cover’d with silence and forgetfulness.—
- Death wons in cities’ smoke, and in still night,
- When men sleep in their beds, walketh about!
- How many in walled cities lie and groan,
- Turning themselves about upon their beds,
10 Talking with Death, answering his hard demands!
- How many walk in darkness, terrors around
- The curtains of their beds, destruction still
- Ready without the door! how many sleep
- In earth, cover’d with stones and deathy dust,
- Resting in quietness, whose spirits walk
- Upon the clouds of heaven, to die no more!
- Yet death is terrible, though on angels’ wings :
- How terrible, then, is the field of death!
- Where he doth rend the vault of heav’n, and shake
20 The gates of hell! Oh Dagworth! France is sick:
- The very sky, tho’ sunshine light it, seems
- To me as pale as the pale fainting man
- On his death-bed, whose face is shown by light
- Of sickly taper! It makes me sad and sick
- At very heart. Thousands must fall to-day.
Dagw. Thousands of souls must
leave this prison house
- To be exalted to those heavenly fields,
- Where songs of triumph, palms of victory,
- Where peace, and joy, and love, and calm content
30 Sit singing in the azure clouds, and strew
- Flowers of heaven’s growth over the banquet table.
- Bind ardent Hope upon your feet like shoes,
- Put on the robe of preparation,
- The table is prepar’d in shining heav’n,
- The flowers of immortality are blown;
- Let those that fight fight in good steadfastness,
- And those that fall shall rise in victory.
Sir Walter. I’ve often
seen the burning field of war
- And often heard the dismal clang of arms;
40 But never, till this fatal day of Cressy,
- Has my soul fainted with these views of death.
- I seem to be in one great charnel-house,
- And seem to scent the rotten carcases!
- I seem to hear the dismal yells of Death,
- While the black gore drops from his horrid jaws;
- Yet I not fear the monster in his pride.—
- But oh, the souls that are to die to-day!
Dagw. Stop, brave Sir Walter,
let me drop a tear,
- Then let the clarion of war begin;
50I’ll fight and weep! ‘tis in my
- I’ll weep and shout for glorious liberty.
- Grim War shall laugh and shout, bedeck’d in tears,
- And blood shall flow like streams across the meadows,
- That murmur down their pebbly channels, and
- Spend their sweet lives to do their country service.
- Then England’s leaves shall shoot, her fields
- Her ships shall sing across the foaming sea,
- Her mariners shall use the flute and viol,
- And rattling guns and black and dreary war
60 Shall be no more.
Sir Walter. Well, let the
trumpet sound and the drum beat;
- Let war stain the blue heavens with bloody banners.
- I’ll draw my sword, nor ever sheath it up,
- Till England blow the trump of victory,
- Or I lie stretch’d upon the field of death.
- O Sons of Trojan Brutus, cloth’d in war,
- Whose voices are the thunder of the field,
- Your ancestors came from the fires of Troy,
- (Like lions rous’d by light’ning from
- Whose eyes do glare against the stormy fires,)
- Heated with war, fill’d with the blood of Greeks,
- With helmets hewn, and shields covered with gore,
- In navies black, broken with wind and tide.
- They landed in firm array upon the rocks
10Of Albion; they kiss’d the rocky shore:
- ‘Be thou our mother and our nurse,’ they
- ‘Our children’s mother; and thou shalt
be our grave,
- ‘The sepulchre of ancient Troy, from whence
- ‘Shall rise cities, and thrones, and awful
- Our fathers swarm from the ships. Giant voices
- Are heard from out the hills; the enormous sons
- Of Ocean run from rocks and caves: wild men,
- Naked, and roaring like lions, hurling rocks,
- And wielding knotty clubs, like oaks entangled,
20 Thick as a forest ready for the axe.
- Our fathers move in firm array to battle;
- The savage monsters rush like roaring fire,
- Like as a forest roars with crackling flames,
- When the red lightning borne by furious storms
- Lights on some woody shore, and the parch’d heavens
- Rain fire into the molten raging sea.
- Our fathers, sweating, lean on their spears and view
- The mighty dead: giant bodies streaming blood,
- Dread visages frowning in silent death.
30Then Brutus speaks, inspired; our fathers sit
- Attentive on the melancholy shore.
- Hear ye the voice of Brutus:—‘The
- ‘Of Time come rolling o’er my
breast,’ he said,
- ‘And my heart labours with futurity.
- ‘Our sons shall rule the empire of the sea,
- ‘Their mighty wings shall stretch from east to
- ‘Their nest is in the sea, but they shall roam
- ‘Like eagles for their prey. ..
- ‘Our sons shall rise from thrones in joy, each one
40‘Buckling his armour on; Morning shall be
- ‘Prevented by the gleaming of their swords,
- ‘And Evening hear their song of victory.
- ‘Freedom shall stand upon the cliffs of Albion,
- ‘Casting her blue eyes over the green ocean;
- ‘Or, towering, stand upon the roaring waves,
- ‘Stretching her mighty spear o’er
- ‘While with her eagle wings she covereth
- ‘Fair Albion’s shore and all her
Note: There is an illustration at the bottom of the page.
Here again but little need be added to what has already
said in the
Life respecting the
Songs of Innocence and Experience.
The first series is incomparably the more beautiful of the two,
indeed almost flawless in essential respects; while in the
series, the five years intervening between the two had proved
sufficient for obscurity and the darker mental phases of Blake’s
writings to set in and greatly mar its poetic value. This contrast
especially evident in those pieces whose subjects tally in
one and the
other series. For instance, there can be no com-
parison between the first
Chimney Sweeper, which touches with such
perfect simplicity the true pathetic chord
of its subject, and the
second, tinged merely with the common-places, if
the truths, of social discontent. However, very perfect and
examples of Blake’s metaphysical poetry occur among the
, such as
Christian Forbearance, and
The Human Abstract.
One piece, the second
Cradle Song, I have myself introduced from
the MS. note-book often referred to,
since there can be no doubt
that it was written to match with the first,
and it has quite sufficient
beauty to give it a right to its natural place.
A few alterations and
additions in other poems have been made from the same
- Piping down the valleys wild,
- Piping songs of pleasant glee,
- On a cloud I saw a child,
- And he, laughing, said to me:
- ‘Pipe a song about a Lamb!’
- So I piped with merry cheer.
- ‘Piper, pipe that song again;’
- So I piped: he wept to hear.
- ‘Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
10 Sing thy songs of happy cheer!’
- So I sang the same again,
- While he wept with joy to hear.
- ‘Piper, sit thee down and write
- In a book, that all may read.’
- So he vanish’d from my sight,
- And I pluck’d a hollow reed,
- And I made a rural pen,
- And I stain‘d the water clear,
- And I wrote my happy songs
20 Every child may joy to hear.
- How sweet is the shepherd’s sweet lot!
- From the morn to the evening he strays;
- He shall follow his sheep all the day,
- And his tongue shall be filled with praise.
- For he hears the lambs’ innocent call,
- And he hears the ewes’ tender reply;
- He is watchful while they are in peace,
- For they know that their shepherd is nigh.
- The sun does arise
- And make happy the skies;
- The merry bells ring,
- To welcome the spring;
- The skylark and thrush,
- The birds of the bush,
- Sing louder around
- To the bells’ cheerful sound;
- While our sports shall be seen
10On the echoing green.
- Old John, with white hair,
- Does laugh away care,
- Sitting under the oak,
- Among the old folk.
- They laugh at our play,
- And soon they all say,
- ‘Such, such were the joys
- When we all—girls and boys—
- ln our youth-time were seen
20On the echoing green.’
- Till the little ones, weary,
- No more can be merry,
- The sun does descend,
- And our sports have an end.
- Round the laps of their mothers
- Many sisters and brothers,
- Like birds in their nest,
- Are ready for rest,
- And sport no more seen
30 On the darkening green.
- Little lamb, who made thee?
- Dost thou know who made thee?
- Gave thee life, and bade thee feed
- By the stream and o’er the mead;
- Gave thee clothing of delight,
- Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
- Gave thee such a tender voice,
- Making all the vales rejoice?
- Little lamb, who made thee?
10Dost thou know who made thee?
- Little lamb, I’ll tell thee;
- Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:
- He is called by thy name,
- For He calls Himself a Lamb.
- He is meek, and He is mild,
- He became a little child.
- I a child, and thou a lamb,
- We are called by His name.
- Little lamb, God bless thee!
20Little lamb, God bless thee
- My mother bore me in the southern wild,
- And I am black, but O, my soul is white.
- White as an angel is the English child,
- But I am black, as if bereaved of light.
- My mother taught me underneath a tree,
- And, sitting down before the heat of day,
- She took me on her lap and kissèd me,
- And, pointing to the East, began to say:
- ‘Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
10And gives His light, and gives His heat away,
- And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
- Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.
- ‘And we are put on earth a little space,
- That we may learn to bear the beams of love;
- And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
- Are but a cloud, and like a shady grove.
- ‘For when our souls have learn’d the heat to
- The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,
- Saying, “Come out from the grove, my love and care,
20And round my golden tent like lambs
- Thus did my mother say, and kissèd me,
- And thus I say to little English boy:
- When I from black, and he from white cloud free,
- And round the tent of God like lambs we joy;
- I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear
- To lean in joy upon our Father’s knee;
- And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
- And be like him, and he will then love me.
- Merry, merry sparrow!
- Under leaves so green
- A happy blossom
- Sees you, swift as arrow,
- Seek your cradle narrow,
- Near my bosom.
- Pretty, pretty robin!
- Under leaves so green
- A happy blossom
10Hears you sobbing, sobbing,
- Pretty, pretty robin,
- Near my bosom.
- When my mother died I was very young,
- And my father sold me while yet my tongue
- Could scarcely cry, ‘Weep! weep! weep!
- So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.
- There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
- That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved; so I said,
- ‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your
- You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’
- And so he was quiet, and that very night,
10As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight;
- That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
- Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black.
- And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
- And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
- Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run,
- And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
- Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
- They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
- And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
20He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.
- And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
- And got with our bags and our brushes to work;
- Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
- So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
- Father, father, where are you going?
- O do not walk so fast;
- Speak, father, speak to your little boy,
- Or else I shall be lost.
- The night was dark, no father was there.
- The child was wet with dew;
- The mire was deep, and the child did weep,
- And away the vapour flew.
- The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
- Led by the wandering light,
- Began to cry, but God, ever nigh,
- Appeared like his father, in white.
- He kissed the child, and by the hand led,
- And to his mother brought,
- Who in sorrow pale through the lonely dale
- The little boy weeping sought.
- When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
- And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
- When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
- And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;
- When the meadows laugh with lively green,
- And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene;
- When Mary, and Susan, and Emily,
- With their sweet round mouths sing, “Ha, ha,
- When the painted birds laugh in the shade,
10 Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread:
- Come live, and be merry, and join with me,
- To sing the sweet chorus of “Ha, ha, he !”
- Sweet dreams, form a shade
- O’er my lovely infant’s head!
- Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
- By happy, silent, moony beams!
- Sweet sleep, with soft down
- Weave thy brows an infant crown!
- Sweet sleep, angel mild,
- Hover o’er my happy child!
- Sweet smiles, in the night
10 Hover over my delight!
- Sweet smiles, mother’s smile,
- All the livelong night beguile!
- Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
- Chase not slumber from thine eyes!
- Sweet moan, sweeter smile
- All the dovelike moans beguile!
- Sleep, sleep, happy child!
- All creation slept and smiled.
- Sleep, sleep, happy sleep!
20While o’er thee doth mother weep.
- Sweet babe, in thy face
- Holy image I can trace;
- Sweet babe, once like thee
- Thy Maker lay, and wept for me!
- Wept for me, for thee, for all,
- When He was an infant small.
- Thou His image ever see,
- Heavenly face that smiles on thee!
- Smiles on thee, on me, on all,
30Who became an infant small;
- Infant smiles like His own smile
- Heaven and earth to peace beguile.
- To mercy, pity, peace, and love,
- All pray in their distress,
- And to these virtues of delight
- Return their thankfulness.
- For mercy, pity, peace, and love,
- Is God our Father dear;
- And mercy, pity, peace, and love,
- Is man, His child and care.
- For Mercy has a human heart,
10 Pity a human face;
- And Love, the human form divine;
- And Peace, the human dress.
- Then every man, of every clime,
- That prays in his distress,
- Prays to the human form divine:
- Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
- And all must love the human form,
- In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
- Where mercy, love, and pity dwell,
20There God is dwelling too.
- ’Twas on a Holy Thursday, their
innocent faces clean,
- Came children walking two and two, in red, and blue, and green :
- Grey-headed beadles walk’d before, with wands as white
- Till into the high dome of Paul’s, they like
Thames’ waters flow.
- O what a multitude they seem‘d, these flowers of London
- Seated in companies they were, with radiance all their own:
- The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
- Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.
- Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
10Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among:
- Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor.
- Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.
- The sun descending in the west,
- The evening star does shine,
- The birds are silent in their nest,
- And I must seek for mine.
- The moon, like a flower
- In heaven’s high bower,
- With silent delight,
- Sits and smiles on the night.
- Farewell, green fields and happy grove,
10 Where flocks have ta’en delight;
- Where lambs have nibbled, silent move
- The feet of angels bright;
- Unseen, they pour blessing,
- And joy without ceasing,
- On each bud and blossom,
- And each sleeping bosom.
- They look in every thoughtless nest,
- Where birds are covered warm;
- They visit caves of every beast,
20 To keep them all from harm:
- If they see any weeping
- That should have been sleeping,
- They pour sleep on their head,
- And sit down by their bed.
- When wolves and tigers howl for prey,
- They pitying stand and weep;
- Seeking to drive their thirst away,
- And keep them from the sheep.
- But if they rush dreadful,
30The angels, most heedful,
- Receive each mild spirit,
- New worlds to inherit.
- And there the lion’s ruddy eyes
- Shall flow with tears of gold:
- And pitying the tender cries,
- And walking round the fold:
- Saying: ‘Wrath by his meekness,
- And by His health, sickness,
- Are driven away
40From our immortal day.
- ‘And now beside thee, bleating lamb,
- I can lie down and sleep,
- Or think on Him who bore thy name,
- Graze after thee, and weep.
- For wash’d in life’s river,
- My bright mane for ever
- Shall shine like the gold,
- As I guard o’er the fold.’
- Sound the flute!
- Now ’tis mute;
- Birds delight,
- Day and night,
- In the dale,
- Lark in sky,—
- Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.
- Full of joy;
- Little girl,
- Sweet and small;
- Cock does crow,
- So do you;
- Merry voice,
- Infant noise;
- Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.
- Little lamb,
20 Here I am;
- Come and lick
- My white neck;
- Let me pull
- Your soft wool;
- Let me kiss
- Your soft face;
- Merrily, merrily we welcome in the year.
- When the voices of children are heard on the
- And laughing is heard on the hill,
- My heart is at rest within my breast,
- And everything else is still.
- Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
- And the dews of night arise;
- Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
- Till the morning appears in the skies.
- No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
10And we cannot go to sleep;
- Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
- And the hills are all covered with sheep.
- Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
- And thou go home to bed.
- The little ones leaped, and shouted, and laugh’d,
- And all the hills echoèd.
- ‘I have no name;
- I am but two days old.’
- What shall I call thee?
- ‘I happy am,
- Joy is my name.‘
- Sweet joy befall thee!
- Pretty joy!
- Sweet joy, but two days old.
- Sweet joy I call thee:
- Thou dost smile.
- I sing the while,
- Sweet joy befall thee!
- Once a dream did weave a shade
- O’er my angel-guarded bed,
- That an emmet lost its way
- Where on grass methought I lay.
- Troubled, ’wilder’d, and forlorn,
- Dark, benighted, travel-worn,
- Over many a tangled spray,
- All heart-broke, I heard her say:
- ‘O, my children do they cry,
10 Do they hear their father sigh?
- Now they look abroad to see,
- Now return and weep for me.’
- Pitying, I dropp’d a tear:
- But I saw a glow-worm near,
- Who replied, ‘What wailing wight
- Calls the watchman of the night?
- ‘I am set to light the ground,
- While the beetle goes his round.
- Follow now the beetle’s hum,
20 Little wanderer, hie thee home!’
- Can I see another’s woe,
- And not be in sorrow too?
- Can I see another’s grief,
- And not seek for kind relief?
- Can I see a falling tear,
- And not feel my sorrow’s share?
- Can a father see his child
- Weep, nor be with sorrow fill’d?
- Can a mother sit and hear,
10An infant groan, an infant fear?
- No, no! never can it be!
- Never, never can it be!
- And can He, who smiles on all,
- Hear the wren, with sorrows small,
- Hear the small bird’s grief and care,
- Hear the woes that infants bear?
- And not sit beside the nest,
- Pouring Pity in their breast?
- And not sit the cradle near,
20Weeping tear on infant’s tear?
- And not sit both night and day,
- Wiping all our tears away?
- Oh, no! never can it be!
- Never, never can it be!
- He doth give His joy to all:
- He becomes an infant small,
- He becomes a man of woe,
- He doth feel the sorrow too.
- Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
30 And thy Maker is not by:
- Think not thou canst weep a tear,
- And thy Maker is not near.
- Oh! He gives to us His joy,
- That our griefs He may destroy:
- Till our grief is fled and gone
- He doth sit by us and moan.
- Youth of delight! come hither
- And see the opening morn,
- Image of Truth new-born.
- Doubt is fled, and clouds of reason,
- Dark disputes and artful teazing.
- Folly is an endless maze;
- Tangled roots perplex her ways;
- How many have fallen there!
- They stumble all night over bones of the dead;
10 And feel—they know not what save care;
- And wish to lead others, when they should be led.
- Hear the voice of the bard,
- Who Present, Past, and Future sees;
- Whose ears have heard
- The Holy Word
- That walked among the ancient trees,
- Calling the lapsed soul,
- And weeping in the evening dew;
- That might control
- The starry pole,
10And fallen, fallen light renew!
- O Earth, O Earth, return!
- Arise from out the dewy grass!
- Night is worn,
- And the morn
- Rises from the slumberous mass.
- Turn away no more;
- Why wilt thou turn away?
- The starry floor,
- The watery shore,
- Is given thee till the break of day.
- Earth raised up her head
- From the darkness dread and drear,
- Her light fled,
- (Stony dread!)
- And her locks covered with grey despair.
- ‘Prisoned on watery shore,
- Starry jealousy does keep my den
- Cold and hoar;
- Weeping o’er,
10I hear the father of the ancient men.
- Selfish father of men!
- Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
- Can delight,
- Chain’d in night,
- The virgins of youth and morning bear?
- Does spring hide its joy,
- When buds and blossoms grow?
- Does the sower
- Sow by night?
20Or the ploughman in darkness plough?
- Break this heavy chain,
- That does freeze my bones around!
- Selfish, vain,
- Eternal bane,
- That free love with bondage bound.’
- Love seeketh not itself to please,
- Nor for itself hath any care,
- But for another gives its ease,
- And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.
- So sang a little clod of clay,
- Trodden with the cattle’s feet;
- But a pebble of the brook
- Warbled out these metres meet:
- ‘Love seeketh only
Self to please,
10To bind another to its delight,
- Joys in another’s loss of ease,
- And builds a hell in heaven’s
- Is this a holy thing to see,
- In a rich and fruitful land,
- Babes reduced to misery,
- Fed with a cold usurious hand?
- Is that trembling cry a song?
- Can it be a song of joy,
- And so many children poor?
- It is a land of poverty!
- And their sun does never shine,
10And their fields are bleak and bare,
- And their ways are fill’d with thorns:
- It is eternal winter there.
- For where’er the sun does shine,
- And where’er the rain does fall,
- Babes should never hunger there,
- Nor poverty the mind appal.
- In futurity,
- I prophetic see,
- That the earth from sleep
- (Grave the sentence deep)
- Shall arise, and seek
- For her Maker meek;
- And the desert wild
- Become a garden mild.
- In the southern clime,
10Where the summer’s prime
- Never fades away,
- Lovely Lyca lay.
- Seven summers old
- Lovely Lyca told.
- She had wandered long,
- Hearing wild birds’ song.
- ‘Sweet sleep, come to me
- Underneath this tree;
- Do father, mother weep?
20Where can Lyca sleep?
- ‘Lost in desert wild
- Is your little child.
- How can Lyca sleep
- If her mother weep?
- ‘If her heart does ache,
- Then let Lyca wake;
- If my mother sleep,
- Lyca shall not weep.
- ‘Frowning, frowning night,
30 O’er this desert bright
- Let thy moon arise,
- While I close my eyes.’
- Sleeping Lyca lay
- While the beasts of prey,
- Come from caverns deep,
- View’d the maid asleep.
- The kingly lion stood
- And the virgin view’d,
- Then he gambol’d round
40O’er the hallow’d ground;
- Leopards, tigers, play
- Round her as she lay,
- While the lion old
- Bow’d his mane of gold,
- And her breast did lick,
- And upon her neck,
- From his eyes of flame,
- Ruby tears there came;
- While the lioness
50Loos’d her slender dress,
- And naked they conveyed
- To caves the sleeping maid.
- All the night in woe
- Lyca’s parents go
- Over valleys deep,
- While the deserts weep.
- Tired and woe-begone,
- Hoarse with making moan,
- Arm in arm, seven days
- They tread the desert ways.
- Seven nights they sleep
10 Among shadows deep,
- And dream they see their child
- Starved in desert wild.
- Pale thro’ pathless ways
- The fancied image strays
- Famished, weeping, weak,
- With hollow piteous shriek.
- Rising from unrest,
- The trembling woman prest
- With feet of weary woe;
20 She could no further go.
- In his arms he bore
- Her, armed with sorrows sore;
- Till before their way
- A couching lion lay.
- Turning back was vain,
- Soon his heavy mane
- Bore them to the ground;
- Then he stalk’d around,
- Smelling to his prey,
30But their fears allay
- When he licks their hands
- And silent by them stands.
- They look upon his eyes
- Filled with deep surprise;
- And wondering behold
- A spirit arm’d in gold.
- On his head a crown,
- On his shoulders down
- Flow’d his golden hair.
40 Gone was all their care.
- ‘Follow me,’ he said,
- ‘Weep not for the maid;
- ‘In my palace deep,
- ‘Lyca lies asleep.’
- Then they followèd
- Where the vision led,
- And saw their sleeping child
- Among tigers wild.
- To this day they dwell
50In a lonely dell,
- Nor fear the wolvish howl
- Nor the lion’s growl.
- A little black thing among the snow,
- Crying ‘weep! weep!’ in notes of woe
- Where are thy father and mother? Say:—
- ‘They are both gone up to the church to pray.
Note: type damage obscures the end of the word “pray.”
- ‘Because I was happy upon the heath,
- ‘And smil’d among the winter’s
- ‘They clothed me in the clothes of death,
- ‘And taught me to sing the notes of woe.
- ‘And because I am happy and dance and sing,
10‘They think they have done me no injury,
- ‘And are gone to praise God and His Priest and King,
- ‘Who make up a heaven of our misery.’
- When the voices of children are heard on the
- And whisperings are in the dale,
- The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
- My face turns green and pale.
- Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
- And the dews of night arise;
- Your spring and your day are wasted in play,
- And your winter and night in disguise.
- O Rose, thou art sick!
- The invisible worm
- That flies in the night,
- In the howling storm,
- Has found out thy bed
- Of crimson joy,
- And his dark secret love
- Does thy life destroy.
- Little Fly,
- Thy summer’s play
- My thoughtless hand
- Has brushed away.
- Am not I
- A fly like thee?
- Or art not thou
- A man like me?
- For I dance,
10And drink, and sing,
- Till some blind hand
- Shall brush my wing.
- If thought is life,
- And strength, and breath;
- And the want
- Of thought is death;
- Then am I
- A happy fly,
- If I live,
20Or if I die.
- I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
- And that I was a maiden Queen
- Guarded by an Angel mild:
- Witless woe was ne’er beguil’d!
- And I wept both night and day,
- And he wip’d my tear away;
- And I wept both day and night,
- And hid from him my heart’s delight
- So he took his wings, and fled;
10 Then the morn blush’d rosy red.
- I dried my tears, and arm’d my fears
- With ten thousand shields and spears.
- Soon my Angel came again,
- I was arm’d, he came in vain;
- For the time of youth was fled,
- And grey hairs were on my head.
- Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
- In the forests of the night,
- What immortal hand or eye
- Framed thy fearful symmetry?
- In what distant deeps or skies
- Burned that fire within thine eyes?
- On what wings dared he aspire?
- What the hand dared seize the fire?
- And what shoulder, and what art,
10Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
- When thy heart began to beat,
- What dread hand formed thy dread feet?
- What the hammer, what the chain,
- Knit thy strength and forged thy brain?
- What the anvil? What dread grasp
- Dared thy deadly terrors clasp?
- When the stars threw down their spears,
- And water’d heaven with their tears,
- Did he smile his work to see?
20Did He who made the lamb make thee?
- A flower was offer’d to me,
- Such a flower as May never bore,
- But I said, I’ve a pretty rose tree,
- And I passed the sweet flower o’er.
- Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
- To tend her by day and by night,
- But my Rose turned away with jealousy
- And her thorns were my only delight.
- Ah! Sunflower! weary of time,
- Who countest the steps of the sun;
- Seeking after that sweet golden prime
- Where the traveller’s journey is done;
- Where the Youth pined away with desire,
- And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
- Arise from their graves, and aspire
- Where my sunflower wishes to go.
- The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
- The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
- While the Lily white shall in Love delight,
- Nor a thorn, nor a threat, stain her beauty bright.
- I laid me down upon a bank,
- Where Love lay sleeping;
- I heard among the rushes dank
- Weeping, weeping.
- Then I went to the heath and the wild,
- To the thistles and thorns of the waste;
- And they told me how they were beguil’d,
- Driven out, and compelled to be chaste.
- I went to the Garden of Love,
10And saw what I never had seen;
- A Chapel was built in the midst,
- Where I used to play on the green.
- And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
- And ‘thou shalt not,’ writ over
- So I turned to the Garden of Love
- That so many sweet flowers bore.
- And I saw it was filled with graves,
- And tombstones where flowers should be,
- And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
20 And binding with briars my joys and desires.
- Dear mother, dear mother, the Church is cold,
- But the Alehouse is healthy, and pleasant, and warm;
- Besides, I can tell where I am used well;
- The poor parsons with wind like a blown bladder swell.
- But if at the Church they would give us some Ale,
- And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
- We’d sing and we’d pray all the livelong day,
- Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.
- Then the Parson might preach, and drink, and sing,
10And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring,
- And modest Dame Lurch, who is always at Church,
- Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.
- And God, like a father, rejoicing to see
- His children as pleasant and happy as He,
- Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel,
- But kiss him, and give him both drink and apparel.
Note: type damage obscures the punctuation after the word
“flow” in the second line; it is unclear if the mark
is a comma or a period.
- I Wander through each charter’d
- Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
- And mark in every face I meet
- Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
- In every cry of every man,
- In every infant’s cry of fear,
- In every voice, in every ban,
- The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.
- How the chimney-sweeper’s cry
10Every blackening church appals,
- And the hapless soldier’s sigh
- Runs in blood down palace walls.
- But most, through midnight streets I hear
- How the youthful harlot’s curse
- Blasts the new-born infant’s tear,
- And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.
- Pity would be no more
- If we did not make somebody poor,
- And Mercy no more could be
- If all were as happy as we.
- And mutual fear brings Peace,
- Till the selfish loves increase;
- Then Cruelty knits a snare,
- And spreads his baits with care.
- He sits down with holy fears,
10And waters the ground with tears;
- Then Humility takes its root
- Underneath his foot.
- Soon spreads the dismal shade
- Of Mystery over his head,
- And the caterpillar and fly
- Feed on the Mystery.
- And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
- Ruddy and sweet to eat,
- And the raven his nest has made
20In its thickest shade.
- The gods of the earth and sea
- Sought through nature to find this tree,
- But their search was all in vain:
- There grows one in the human Brain.
- My mother groaned, my father wept,
- Into the dangerous world I leapt,
- Helpless, naked, piping loud,
- Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
- Struggling in my father’s hands,
- Striving against my swaddling bands,
- Bound, and weary, I thought best
- To sulk upon my mother’s breast.
- I was angry with my friend:
- I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
- I was angry with my foe:
- I told it not, my wrath did grow.
- And I watered it in fears
- Night and morning with my tears,
- And I sunnèd it with smiles
- And with soft deceitful wiles.
- And it grew both day and night
10 Till it bore an apple bright,
- And my foe beheld it shine,
- And he knew that it was mine,
- And into my garden stole
- When the night had veil’d the pole;
- In the morning, glad, I see
- My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
- ‘Nought loves another as itself,
- ‘ Nor venerates another so,
- ‘Nor is it possible to thought
- ‘A greater than itself to know.
- ‘And, Father, how can I love you
- ‘Or any of my brothers more?
- ‘I love you like the little bird
- ‘That picks up crumbs around the
- The Priest sat by and heard the child;
10 In trembling zeal he seiz’d his hair,
- He led him by his little coat,
- And all admired the priestly care.
- And standing on the altar high,
- ‘Lo! what a fiend is here,’ said
- ‘One who sets reason up for judge
- ‘Of our most holy Mystery.’
- The weeping child could not be heard,
- The weeping parents wept in vain,
- They stripp’d him to his little shirt,
20 And bound him in an iron chain,
- And burned him in a holy place
- Where many had been burned before;
- The weeping parents wept in vain.
- Are such things done on Albion’s shore?
- Children of the future Age,
- Reading this indignant page,
- Know that, in a former time,
- Love, sweet love, was thought a crime.
- In the age of gold,
- Free from winter’s cold,
- Youth and maiden bright,
- To the holy light,
- Naked in the sunny beams delight.
10Once a youthful pair,
- Fill’d with softest care,
- Met in garden bright,
- Where the holy light
- Had just removed the curtains of the night.
- Then, in rising day,
- On the grass they play;
- Parents were afar,
- Strangers came not near,
- And the maiden soon forgot her fear.
20Tired with kisses sweet,
- They agree to meet
- When the silent sleep,
- Waves o’er heaven’s deep
- And the weary tired wanderers weep.
- To her father white
- Came the maiden bright,
- But his loving look,
- Like the holy book,
- All her tender limbs with terror shook.
30Ona! pale and weak,
- To thy father speak;
- Oh the trembling fear,
- Oh! the dismal care
- That shakes the blossoms of my hoary hair!
- Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
- Dreaming in the joys of night;
- Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep
- Little sorrows sit and weep.
- Sweet babe, in thy face
- Soft desires I can trace,
- Secret joys and secret smiles,
- Little pretty infant wiles.
- As thy softest limbs I feel,
10Smiles as of the morning steal
- O’er thy cheek, and o’er thy breast
- Where thy little heart doth rest.
- Oh the cunning wiles that creep
- In thy little heart asleep!
- When thy little heart doth wake,
- Then the dreadful light shall break.
- I love to rise on a summer morn,
- When birds are singing on every tree;
- The distant huntsman winds his horn,
- And the skylark sings with me:
- O what sweet company!
- But to go to school in a summer morn,—
- Oh! it drives all joy away;
- Under a cruel eye outworn,
- The little ones spend the day
10In sighing and dismay.
- Ah! then at times I drooping sit
- And spend many an anxious hour;
- Nor in my book can I take delight,
- Nor sit in learning’s bower,
- Worn through with the dreary shower.
- How can the bird that is born for joy
- Sit in a cage and sing?
- How can a child, when fears annoy,
- But droop his tender wing,
20And forget his youthful spring?
- O father and mother, if buds are nipp’d,
- And blossoms blown away;
- And if the tender plants are stripp’d
- Of their joy in the springing day,
- By sorrow and care’s dismay,—
- How shall the summer arise in joy,
- Or the summer fruits appear?
- Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
- Or bless the mellowing year,
30When the blasts of winter appear?
- Whate’er is born of Mortal Birth
- Must be consumèd with the earth,
- To rise from generation free:
- Then what have I to do with thee?
- The sexes sprang from shame and pride,
- Blown in the morn, in evening died;
- But mercy changed death into sleep;
- The sexes rose to work and weep.
- Thou, mother of my mortal part,
10 With cruelty didst mould my heart,
- And with false self-deceiving tears
- Didst bind my nostrils, eyes, and ears,
- Didst close my tongue in senseless clay,
- And me to mortal life betray.
- The death of Jesus set me free:
- Then what have I to do with thee?
Thel has been spoken of in the
(Chapter X. page 76). It is equal in
Blake’s lyrical poetry; and being the most tender and simple of
the class of his works to which it belongs, may prove the most generally
as a specimen of these.]
Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
Or wilt thou go ask the mole?
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
Or Love in a golden bowl?
Note: The title “THEL I” is illustrated.
- The daughters of the Seraphim led round their
- All but the youngest: she in paleness sought the secret air
- To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day.
- Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard,
- And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew.
- “O life of this our Spring! why fades the lotus of the
- Why fade these children of the Spring, born but to smile and fall?
- Ah! Thel is like a watery bow, and like a parting cloud,
- Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water,
10 Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s
- Like the dove’s voice, like transient day, like music
in the air.
- Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head,
- And gentle sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
- Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time.”
- The Lily of the valley breathing in the humble grass
- Answer’d the lovely maid and said: ”I am a
- And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
- So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head.
- Yet I am visited from heaven; and He that smiles on all
20Walks in the valley, and each morn over me spreads His hand,
- Saying, ‘Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born
- Thou gentle maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
- For thou shalt be clothed in light and fed with morning manna,
- Till summer’s heat melts thee beside the fountains and
- To flourish in eternal vales.’ Then why should Thel
- Why should the mistress of the vales of Har utter a
- She ceased and smiled in tears, then sat down in her silver
- Thel answer’d: “O thou little virgin of the
- Giving to those that cannot crave, the voiceless, the
30 Thy breath doth nourish the innocent lamb, he smells thy milky
- He crops thy flowers, while thou sittest smiling in his face,
- Wiping his mild and meekin mouth from all contagious taints.
- Thy wine doth purify the golden honey, thy perfume,
- Which thou dost scatter on every little blade of grass that
- Revives the milked cow, and tames the fire-breathing steed.
- But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at the rising sun:
- I vanish from my pearly throne, and who shall find my
- “Queen of the vales,” the Lily answered,
“ask the tender cloud,
- And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the morning sky,
40 And why it scatters its bright beauty through the humid air.
- Descend, O little cloud, and hover before the eyes of
- The cloud descended, and the Lily bowed her modest head
- And went to mind her numerous charge among the verdant grass.
- “O little cloud,” the Virgin said,
“I charge thee tell to me
- Why thou complainest not, when in one hour thou fad’st
- Then we shall seek thee, but not find. Ah! Thel is like to thee;
- I pass away, yet I complain and no one hears my voice.”
- The cloud then showed his golden head, and his bright form emerged
- Hovering and glittering on the air before the face of Thel.
- “O virgin, know’st thou not our steeds drink
of the golden springs
- Where Luvah doth renew his horses? Look’st thou on my
- And fearest thou because I vanish and am seen no more?
10Nothing remains. O maid, I tell thee, when I pass away
- It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace, and raptures holy.
- Unseen descending weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers,
- And court the fair-eyed dew to take me to her shining tent:
- The weeping virgin trembling kneels before the risen sun,
- Till we arise, link’d in a golden band, and never
- But walk united, bearing food to all our tender
- “Dost thou, O little cloud? I fear that I am not like
- For I walk through the vales of Har, and smell the sweetest
- But I feed not the little flowers: I hear the warbling birds,
20 But I feed not the warbling birds, they fly and seek their food:
- But Thel delights in these no more because I fade away,
- And all shall say, without a use this shining woman
- Or did she only live to be at death the food of
- The Cloud reclined upon his airy throne and answer’d
- “Then if thou art the food of worms, O virgin of the
- How great thy use, how great thy blessing. Every thing that lives,
- Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
- The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice.
- Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive
30The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lily’s leaf,
- And the bright cloud sailed on to find his partner in the vale.
- Then Thel, astonished, viewed the worm upon its dewy bed.
- “Art thou a worm? image of weakness, art thou but a
- I see thee, like an infant, wrapped in the Lily’s leaf:
- Ah! weep not, little voice, thou must not speak, but thou canst
- Is this a worm? I see thee lie helpless and naked, weeping,
- And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mothers
- The clod of clay heard the worm’s voice, and
rais’d her pitying head:
- She bow’d over the weeping infant, and her life
- In milky fondness: then on Thel she fix’d her humble
10“O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for
- Thou seest me, the meanest thing, and so I am indeed;
- My bosom of itself is cold and of itself is dark,
- But He that loves the lowly pours His oil upon my head,
- And kisses me, and binds His nuptial bands around my breast,
- And says:—‘ Thou mother of my children, I
have loved thee,
- And I have given thee a crown that none can take
- But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
- I ponder, and I cannot ponder: yet I live and love!”
- The daughter of beauty wip’d her pitying tears with her
20 And said:—“Alas I knew not this, and
therefore did I weep.
- That God would love a worm, I knew, and punish the evil foot
- That wilful bruised its helpless form; but that he
- With milk and oil, I never knew, and therefore did I weep.
- And I complained in the mild air, because I fade away,
- And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining
- “Queen of the vales,” the matron clay
answered; “I heard thy sighs,
- And all thy moans flew o’er my roof, but I have
call’d them down.
- Wilt thou, O queen, enter my house? ‘tis given thee to
- And to return: fear nothing, enter with thy virgin
- The eternal gates’ terrrific porter lifted the northern
- Thel enter’d in and saw the secrets of the land unknown.
- She saw the couches of the dead, and where the fibrous root
- Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
- A land of sorrows and of tears, where never smile was seen.
- She wander’d in the land of clouds, through valleys
- Dolours and lamentations; wailing oft beside a dewy grave
- She stood in silence, listening to the voices of the ground,
- Till to her own grave-plot she came, and there she sat down,
10And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit:
- “Why cannot the ear be closed to its own destruction?
- Or the glistening eye to the poison of a smile?
- Why are eyelids stor’d with arrows ready drawn,
- Where a thousand fighting-men in ambush lie,
- Or an eye of gifts and graces showering fruits and coined gold?
- “Why a tongue impress’d with honey from
- Why an ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
- Why a nostril wide inhaling terror, trembling and affright?
- Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy?
20Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our
- The virgin started from her seat, and with a shriek
- Fled back unhinder’d till she came into the vales of
In the MS. Note-book, to which frequent reference has
made in the
Life, a page stands inscribed with the
above. It seems uncertain how much of the book's contents
title may have been meant to include; but it is now adopted here
as a not inappropriate summarizing endorsement for the precious
which here follows. In doing so, Mr. Swinburne's example
Essay on Blake) has been followed, as regards pieces drawn
from the Note-book.
The contents of the present section are derived partly from the
Note-book in question, and partly from another small autograph col-
of different matter, somewhat more fairly copied. The poems
reclaimed, as regards the first-mentioned source, from as
chaotic a mass as
could well be imagined; amid which it has some-
times been necessary either
to omit, transpose, or combine, so as to
render available what was very
seldom found in a final state. And
even in the pieces drawn from the second
source specified above,
means of the same kind have occasionally been
resorted to, where
they seemed to lessen obscurity or avoid redundance. But
this, there is nothing throughout that is not faithfully Blake's
One piece in this series (
The Two Songs) may be regarded as a
different version of the
Human Abstract, occurring in the
. This new form is certainly the finer one, I think, by
its personified character, which adds greatly to the force of
impression produced. It is, indeed, one of the finest things
did, really belonging, by its vivid completeness, to the order
short poems,—never a very large band, even when the best
ransacked to recruit it. Others among the longer poems
of this section,
which are, each in its own way, truly admirable, are
Auguries of Innocence.
It is but too probable that the piece called
Broken Love has a recon-
dite bearing on the bewilderments of Blake's special
besides a soul suffering in such limbo, this poem has a
body penetrated with human passion. From this point of
never, perhaps, have the agony and perversity of sundered
been more powerfully (however singularly) expressed than here.
The speaker is one whose soul has been intensified by pain to be
only world, among the scenes, figures, and events of which he
moves as in a
new state of being. The emotions have been quick-
ened and isolated by
conflicting torment, till each is a separate com-
panion. There is his
‘spectre,’ the jealous pride which scents in the
the footsteps of the beloved rejected woman, but is a wild
beast to guard
his way from reaching her; his ‘emanation’ which
silently weeps within him, for has not he also sinned? So they
together in ‘a fathomless and boundless
deep,’ the morn full
of tempests and the night of tears.
Let her weep, he says, not for
his sins only, but for her own; nay, he will
cast his sins upon her
shoulders too; they shall be more and more till she
come to him
again. Also this woe of his can array itself in stately
can count separately how many of his soul's affections the
stabbed them with has slain, how many yet mourn over the tombs
he has built for these: he can tell, too, of some that still
around his bed, bright sometimes with ecstatic passion of
and crowing his mournful head with vine. All these living
her transgressions: when will she look upon them, that the dead
live again? Has she not pity to give for pardon? nay, does he not
need her pardon too? He cannot seek her, but oh! if she would
Surely her place is ready for her, and bread and wine of
belong to a truly
mystical order of poetry. The former is a lovely
piece of lyrical
writing, but certainly has not the clearness of crystal.
Yet the mean-
ing of such among Blake's compositions, as this is, may
be missed chiefly through seeking for a sense more recondite
was really meant. A rather intricate interpretation was attempted
here in the first edition of these Selections. Mr. W. M. Rossetti has
probably since found the true one in his simple sentence: “This
seems to me to represent, under a very ideal form, the phenomena
gestation and birth” (see the Aldine
edition of Blake's
174). The singular stanza commencing
“Another England there I
saw,” &c., may thus be
taken to indicate quaintly that the undeveloped
creature, half sentient and half conscious, has a
world of its own
akin in some wise to the country of its birth.
Mental Traveller seemed at first a hopeless riddle; and the
editor of these Selections
must confess to having been on the point
of omitting it, in spite of its
high poetic beauty, as incomprehensible.
He is again indebted to his
brother for the clear-sighted, and no
doubt correct, exposition which is
now printed with it, and brings its
full value to light.
The poem of
Mary appears to be, on one side, an allegory of the
poetic or spiritual
mind moving unrecognized and reviled among its
fellows; and this view of it
is corroborated when we find Blake
applying to himself two lines almost
identically taken from it, in
the last of the Letters to Mr. Butts printed
Life . But the literal
meaning may be accepted, too, as a hardly extreme
expression of the
rancour and envy so constantly attending pre-eminent
A most noble, though surpassingly quaint example of Blake's
sympathy with all forms of created life, as well as of the kind
power which he possessed of giving vigorous expression
to abstract or
social truths, will be found in the
Auguries of Innocence.
It is a somewhat tangled skein of thought, but stored
with the riches of simple wisdom.
Quaintness reaches its climax in
William Bond, which may be
regarded as a kind of glorified street-ballad. One
point that requires
to be noted is that the term
‘fairies’ is evidently used to indicate
emotions, while ‘angels’ are spirits of cold coercion.
close of the ballad is very beautiful. It is not long since there
seemed to dawn on the present writer a meaning in this ballad not
discovered before. Should we not connect it with the lines
(page 118) the meaning of which is obvious to
knowers of Blake as bearing on marriage? And may not
Bond’ thus be William Blake, the bondman of
the ‘lovely myrtle
tree’? It is known
that the shadow of jealousy, far from unfounded,
fell on poor Catherine
Blake's married life at one moment, and it has
been stated that this
jealousy culminated in a terrible and difficult
crisis. We ourselves can
well imagine that this ballad is but a literal
relation, with such
emotional actors, of some transfiguring trance and
passion of mutual tears
from which Blake arose no longer ‘bond’
myrtle-tree, but with that love, purged of all drossier element,
death-bed accent was, “Kate, you have ever been an
The ballad of
William Bond has great spiritual beauties, whatever
its meaning; and it is one of
only two examples, in this form, occurring
among Blake's lyrics. The other
Long John Brown and
Little Mary Bell
, and perhaps the reader may be sufficiently surprised
The shorter poems, and even the fragments, afford many instances
that exquisite metrical gift and rightness in point of form which
constitute Blake's special glory among his contemporaries, even
eminently perhaps than the grander command of mental re-
sources which is
also his. Such qualities of pure perfection in
, as he perpetually, without effort, displayed are to be met with
among those elder poets whom he loved, and such again are now
as the peculiar trophies of a school which has arisen
since his time; but
he alone (let it be repeated and remembered)
then, and possessed them in clear completeness.
Colour and metre,
these are the true patents of nobility in painting
and poetry, taking
precedence of all intellectual claims; and it is by
virtue of these, first
of all, that Blake holds, in both arts, a rank which
cannot be taken from
Epigrams on Art, which conclude this section, a few are
really pointed, others
amusingly irascible,—all more or less a sort of
nonsense verses, and not
even pretending to be much else. To enter
into their reckless spirit of
doggerel, it is almost necessary to see the
original note-book in which
they occur, which continually testifies, by
sudden exclamatory entries, to
the curious degree of boyish impulse
which was one of Blake's
characteristics. It is not improbable that
such names as Rembrandt, Rubens,
Correggio, Reynolds, may have
met the reader's eye before in a very
different sort of context from
that which surrounds them in the surprising
poetry of this their
brother artist; and certainly they are made to do
service here as
scarecrows to the crops of a rather jealous husbandman. And
that, I have my strong suspicions that the same amount of
ment of them uttered
to instead of
by our good Blake, would have
elicited, on his side, a somewhat
different estimate. These phials of
his wrath, however, have no poison, but
merely some laughing gas in
them; so now that we are setting the laboratory
a little in order, let
these, too, come down from their dusty upper shelf.
He. Where thou dwellest, in
- Tell me, fair one, tell me, love,
- Where thou thy charming nest dost build,
- O thou pride of every field!
She. Yonder stands a lonely tree,
- There I live and mourn for thee;
- Morning drinks my silent tear,
- And evening winds my sorrow bear.
He. O thou summer’s harmony,
10I have lived and mourned for thee;
- Each day I mourn along the wood,
- And night hath heard my sorrows loud.
She. Dost thou truly long for me?
- And am I thus sweet to thee?
- Sorrow now is at an end,
- O my lover and my friend!
He. Come! on wings of joy we’ll fly
- To where my bower is hung on high;
- Come, and make thy calm retreat
20 Among green leaves and blossoms sweet.
- My Spectre around me night and day
- Like a wild beast guards my way;
- My Emanation far within
- Weeps incessantly for my sin.
- A fathomless and boundless deep,
- There we wander, there we weep;
- On the hungry craving wind
- My Spectre follows thee behind.
- He scents thy footsteps in the snow,
10 Wheresoever thou dost go;
- Through the wintry hail and rain
- When wilt thou return again?
- Poor pale, pitiable form
- That I follow in a storm,
- From sin I never shall be free
- Till thou forgive and come to me.
- A deep winter dark and cold
- Within my heart thou dost unfold;
- Iron tears and groans of lead
20Thou binds’t around my aching head.
- Dost thou not in pride and scorn
- Fill with tempests all my morn,
- And with jealousies and fears?—
- And fill my pleasant nights with tears?
- O’er my sins thou dost sit and moan:
- Hast thou no sins of thine own?
- O’er my sins thou dost sit and weep
- And lull thine own sins fast asleep.
- Thy weeping thou shalt ne’er give o’er;
30 I sin against thee more and more,
- And never will from sin be free
- Till thou forgive and come to me.
- What transgressions I commit
- Are for thy transgressions fit,—
- They thy harlots, thou their slave;
- And my bed becomes their grave.
- Seven of my sweet loves thy knife
- Hath bereaved of their life:
- Their marble tombs I built, with tears
40And with cold and shadowy fears.
- Seven more loves weep night and day
- Round the tombs where my loves lay,
- And seven more loves attend at night
- Around my couch with torches bright.
- And seven more loves in my bed
- Crown with vine my mournful head;
- Pitying and forgiving all
- Thy transgressions, great and small.
- When wilt thou return, and view
50My loves, and them in life renew?
- When wilt thou return and live?
- When wilt thou pity as I forgive?
- Throughout all Eternity
- I forgive you, you forgive me.
- As our dear Redeemer said:
- ‘This the wine, and this the bread.’
- I heard an Angel singing
- When the day was springing:
- ‘Mercy, Pity, and Peace
- Are the world’s release.’
- So he sang all day
- Over the new-mown hay,
- Till the sun went down,
- And haycocks looked brown.
- I heard a Devil curse
10Over the heath and the furze:
- ‘Mercy could be no more
- If there were nobody poor,
- And Pity no more could be
- If all were happy as ye:
- And mutual fear brings Peace.
- Misery’s increase
- Are Mercy, Pity, Peace.’
- At his cures the sun went down,
- And the heavens gave a frown.
- I saw a chapel all of gold
- That none did dare to enter in,
- And many weeping stood without,
- Weeping, mourning, worshipping.
- I saw a serpent rise between
- The white pillars of the door,
- And he forced and forced and forced
- Till he the golden hinges tore:
- And along the pavement sweet,
10Set with pearls and rubies bright,
- All his shining length he drew,
- Till upon the altar white
- He vomited his poison out
- On the bread and on the wine.
- So I turned into a sty,
- And laid me down among the swine.
- Why was Cupid a boy,
- And why a boy was he?
- He should have been a girl,
- For aught that I can see.
- For he shoots with his bow,
- And the girl shoots with her eye,
- And they both are merry and glad,
- And laugh when we do cry.
- Then to make Cupid a boy
10 Was surely a woman’s plan,
- For a boy never learns so much
- Till he has become a man:
- And then he’s so pierced with cares
- And wounded with arrowy smarts,
- That the whole business of his life
- Is to pick out the heads of the darts
- The vision of Christ that thou dost see
- Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
- Thine is the fare of all mankind,—
- Mine speaks in parables to the blind;
- Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
- Thy Heaven-doors are my Hell-gates.
- Socrates taught what Meletus
- Loathed as a nation’s bitterest curse,
- And Caiaphas was in his own mind
10A benefactor to mankind.
- Both read the Bible day and night;
- But thou read’st black where I read white.
- Jesus sat in Moses’ chair;
- They brought the trembling woman there;
- Moses commands she be stoned to death;
- What was the sound of Jesus’ breath?
- He laid his hand on Moses’ law:
- The ancient heavens in silent awe,
- Writ with curses from pole to pole,
20 All away began to roll.
- The earth trembling and naked lay,
- In secret bed of mortal clay,
- And she heard the breath of God
- As she heard it by Eden’s flood:—
- ‘To be good only, is to be
- ‘A God, or else a Pharisee.
- ‘Thou Angel of the Presence Divine,
- ‘That didst create this body of mine,
- ‘Wherefore hast thou writ these laws
30 ‘And created Hell’s dark jaws?
- ‘Though thou didst all to chaos roll
- ‘With the serpent for its soul,
- ‘Still the breath Divine doth move,
- ‘And the breath Divine is Love.
- ‘Woman, fear not; let me see
- ‘The seven devils that trouble thee;
- ‘Hide not from my sight thy sin,
- ‘That full forgiveness thou may’st win.
- ‘ Hath no man condemnèd thee?’
- ‘Then what is he
- ‘Who shall accuse thee? Come ye forth,
- ‘Ye fallen fiends of heavenly birth!
- ‘Ye shall bow before her feet,
- ‘Ye shall lick the dust for meat;
- ‘And though ye cannot love, but hate,
- ‘Ye shall be beggars at love’s gate.
- ‘What was thy love? Let me see’t!
- ‘Was it love, or dark deceit?’
50‘Love too long from me hath fled;
- ‘ ’Twas dark deceit, to earn my bread;
- ‘ ’Twas covet, or ’twas custom,
- ‘Some trifle not worth caring for.
- ‘But these would call a shame and sin
- ‘Love’s temple that God dwelleth
- Never seek to tell thy love,
- Love that never told can be!
- For the gentle wind doth move
- Silently, invisibly.
- I told my love, I told my love,
- I told her all my heart,
- Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears.
- Ah! she did depart.
- Soon after she was gone from me,
10 A traveller came by,
- Silently, invisibly:
- He took her with a sigh.
- As I wandered in the forest
- The green leaves among,
- I heard a wild-flower
- Singing a song.
- ‘I slept in the earth
- ‘In the silent night,
- ‘I murmured my fears
- ‘And I felt delight.
- ‘In the morning I went,
10‘As rosy as morn,
- ‘To seek for new joy,
- ‘ But I met with scorn.’
- The maiden caught me in the wild,
- Where I was dancing merrily;
- She put me into her cabinet,
- And locked me up with a golden key.
- This cabinet is formed of gold,
- And pearl and crystal shining bright,
- And within it opens into a world
- And a little, lovely, moony night.
- Another England there I saw,
10Another London with its tower,
- Another Thames and other hills,
- And another pleasant Surrey bower.
- Another maiden like herself,
- Translucent, lovely, shining clear,
- Threefold, each in the other closed,
- O what a pleasant trembling fear!
- O what a smile! a threefold smile
- Filled me that like a flame I burned;
- I bent to kiss the lovely maid,
20And found a threefold kiss returned.
- I strove to seize the inmost form
- With ardour fierce and hands of flame,
- But burst the crystal cabinet,
- And like a weeping babe became.
- A weeping babe upon the wild,
- And weeping woman pale reclined,
- And in the outward air again
- I filled with woes the passing wind.
Note: Type damage obscures the punctuation after “vain” in
the eighth line; it is unclear whether this is a comma or a period.
- There is a smile of Love,
- And there is a smile of Deceit,
- And there is a smile of smiles
- In which the two smiles meet.
- And there is a frown of Hate,
- And there is a frown of Disdain,
- And there is a frown of frowns
- Which you strive to forget in vain.
- For it sticks in the heart’s deep core
10 And it sticks in the deep backbone.
- And no smile ever was smiled
- But only one smile alone
- (And betwixt the cradle and grave
- It only once smiled can be),
- That when it once is smiled
- There’s an end to all misery.
- Beneath a white thorn’s lovely May,
- Three virgins at the break of day:—
- ‘Whither, young man, whither away?
- Alas for woe! alas for woe!’
- They cry, and tears for ever flow.
- The first was clothed in flames of fire,
- The second clothed in iron wire;
- The third was clothed in tears and sighs,
- Dazzling bright before my eyes.
10They bore a net of golden twine
- To hang upon the branches fine.
- Pitying I wept to see the woe
- That love and beauty undergo—
- To be clothed in burning fires
- And in ungratified desires,
- And in tears clothed night and day;
- It melted all my soul away.
- When they saw my tears, a smile
- That might heaven itself beguile
20 Bore the golden net aloft,
- As on downy pinions soft,
- Over the morning of my day.
- Underneath the net I stray,
- Now intreating Flaming-fire,
- Now intreating Iron-wire,
- Now intreating Tears-and-sighs.—
- O when will the morning rise!
- ‘Awake, awake, my little boy!
- Thou wast thy mother’s only joy;
- Why dost thou weep in thy gentle sleep?
- O wake! thy father doth thee keep.
- ‘O what land is the land of dreams?
- What are its mountains and what are its streams?
- ‘O father! I saw my mother there,
- Among the lilies by waters fair.
- ‘Among the lambs clothèd in white,
10She walked with her Thomas in sweet delight.
- I wept for joy, like a dove I mourn—
- O when shall I again return!’
- ‘Dear child! I also by pleasant streams
- Have wandered all night in the land of dreams,
- But, though calm and warm the waters wide
- I could not get to the other side.’
- ‘Father, O father! what do we here,
- In this land of unbelief and fear?
- The land of dreams is better far,
20 Above the light of the morning star.’
- Sweet Mary, the first time she ever was there,
- Came into the ball-room among the fair;
- The young men and maidens around her throng,
- And these are the words upon every tongue:
- ‘An angel is here from the heavenly climes,
- Or again return the golden times;
- Her eyes outshine every brilliant ray,
- She opens her lips—‘tis the month of
- Mary moves in soft beauty and conscious delight,
10To augment with sweet smiles all the joys of the night,
- Nor once blushes to own to the rest of the fair
- That sweet love and beauty are worthy our care.
- In the morning the villagers rose with delight,
- And repeated with pleasure the joys of the night,
- And Mary arose among friends to be free,
- But no friend from henceforward thou, Mary, shalt see.
- Some said she was proud, some reviled her still more,
- And some when she passed by shut-to the door;
- A damp cold came o’er her, her blushes all fled,
20Her lilies and roses are blighted and shed.
- ‘O why was I born with a different face,
- Why was I not born like this envious race?
- Why did heaven adorn me with bountiful hand,
- And then set me down in an envious land?
- ‘To be weak as a lamb and smooth as a dove,
- And not to raise envy, is called Christian love;
- But if you raise envy your merit’s to blame
- For planting such spite in the weak and the tame.
- ‘I will humble my beauty, I will not dress fine,
30I will keep from the ball, and my eyes shall not shine;
- And if any girl’s lover forsakes her for me,
- I’ll refuse him my hand and from envy be
- She went out in the morning attired plain and neat;
- ‘Proud Mary’s gone mad,’ said the
child in the street;
- She went out in the morning in plain neat attire,
- And came home in the evening bespattered with mire.
- She trembled and wept, sitting on the bed-side,
- She forgot it was night, and she trembled and cried;
- She forgot it was night, she forgot it was morn,
40Her soft memory imprinted with faces of scorn.
- With faces of scorn and with eyes of disdain,
- Like foul fiends inhabiting Mary’s mild brain;
- She remembers no face like the human divine;
- All faces have envy, sweet Mary, but thine.
- And thine is a face of sweet love in despair,
- And thine is a face of mild sorrow and care,
- And thine is a face of wild terror and fear
- That shall never be quiet till laid on its bier.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
- A Robin Redbreast in a cage
- Puts all Heaven in a rage;
- A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
- Shudders hell through all its regions;
- A dog starved at his master’s gate
- Predicts the ruin of the State;
- A game-cock clipped and armed for fight
- Doth the rising sun affright;
- A horse misused upon the road
10Calls to Heaven for human blood;
- Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
- Raises from hell a human soul;
- Each outcry of the hunted hare
- A fibre from the brain doth tear;
- A skylark wounded on the wing
- Doth make a cherub cease to sing.
- He who shall hurt the little wren
- Shall never be beloved by men;
- He who the ox to wrath has moved
20 Shall never be by woman loved;
- He who shall train the horse to war
- Shall never pass the Polar Bar;
- The wanton boy that kills the fly
- Shall feel the spider’s enmity;
- He who torments the chafer’s sprite
- Weaves a bower in endless night.
- The caterpillar on the leaf
- Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief:
- The wild deer wandering here and there
30Keep the human soul from care:
- The lamb misused breeds public strife,
- And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
- Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
- For the last judgment draweth nigh;
- The beggar’s dog, and widow’s cat,
- Feed them, and thou shalt grow fat.
- Every tear from every eye
- Becomes a babe in Eternity;
- The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
40Are waves, that beat on Heaven’s shore.
- The bat that flits at close of eve
- Has left the brain that won’t believe;
- The owl that calls upon the night
- Speaks the unbeliever’s fright;
- The gnat that sings his summer’s song
- Poison gets from slander’s tongue
- The poison of the snake and newt
- Is the sweat of envy’s foot;
- The poison of the honey bee
50Is the artist’s jealousy;
- The strongest poison ever known
- Came from Cæsar’s laurel-crown.
- Naught can deform the human race
- Like to the armourer’s iron brace;
- The soldier armed with sword and gun
- Palsied strikes the summer’s sun;
- When gold and gems adorn the plough,
- To peaceful arts shall envy bow;
- The beggar’s rags fluttering in air
60 Do to rags the heavens tear;
- The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
- Are toadstools on the miser’s bags;
- One mite wrung from the labourer’s hands
- Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands,
- Or, if protected from on high,
- Shall that whole nation sell and buy;
- The poor man’s farthing is worth more
- Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.
- The whore and gambler, by the state
70 Licensed, build that nation’s fate;
- The harlot’s cry from street to street
- Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet;
- The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
- Shall dance before dead England’s hearse.
- He who mocks the infant’s faith
- Shall be mocked in age and death;
- He who shall teach the child to doubt
- The rotting grave shall ne’er get out;
- He who respects the infant’s faith
80 Triumphs over hell and death;
- The babe is more than swaddling bands
- Throughout all these human lands;
- Tools were made and born were hands,
- Every farmer understands.
- The questioner who sits so sly
- Shall never know how to reply;
- He who replies to words of doubt
- Doth put the light of knowledge out;
- A puddle, or the cricket’s cry,
90 Is to doubt a fit reply;
- The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
- Are the fruits of the two seasons;
- The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile
- Make lame philosophy to smile;
- A truth that’s told with bad intent
- Beats all the lies you can invent.
- He who doubts from what he sees
- Will ne’er believe, do what you please;
- If the sun and moon should doubt,
100 They’d immediately go out.
- Every night and every morn
- Some to misery are born;
- Every morn and every night
- Some are born to sweet delight;
- Some are born to sweet delight,
- Some am born to endless night.
- Joy and woe are woven fine,
- A clothing for the soul divine;
- Under every grief and pine
110Runs a joy with silken twine.
- It is right it should be so;
- Man was made for joy and woe;
- And when this we rightly know,
- Safely through the world we go.
- We are led to believe a lie
- When we see
- Which was born in a night to perish in a night
- When the soul slept in beams of light.
- God appears and God is light
120To those poor souls who dwell in night;
- But doth a human form display
- To those who dwell in realms of day.
The ‘Mental Traveller’ indicates an explorer of mental phænomena.
The mental phænomenon here symbolized seems to be the career of
any great Idea or intellectual movement—as, for instance,
Christianity, chivalry, art, &c.—represented as going
through the stages of —1. birth, 2. adversity and persecution, 3.
triumph and maturity, 4. decadence through over-ripeness, 5. gradual
transformation, under new conditions, into another renovated Idea, which
again has to pass through all the same stages. In other words, the poem
represents the action and re-action of Ideas upon society, and of society
Argument of the stanzas:
2. The Idea, conceived with pain,
is born amid enthusiasm. 3 If of masculine, enduring nature, it falls under
the control and ban of the already existing state of society (the woman
old). 5. As the Idea develops, the old society becomes moulded into a new
society (the old woman grows young). 6. The Idea, now free and dominant, is
united to society, as it were in wedlock. 8. It gradually grows old and
effete, living now only upon the spiritual treasures laid up in the days of
its early energy. 10. These still subserve many purposes of practical good,
and outwardly the Idea is in its most flourishing estate, even when sapped
at its roots. 11. The halo of authority and tradition, or prestige,
gathering round the Idea, is symbolized in the resplendent babe born on his
hearth. 13. This prestige deserts the Idea itself, and attaches to some
individual, who usurps the honour due only to the Idea (as we may see in the
case of papacy, royalty, &c.); and the Idea is eclipsed by its
own very prestige, and assumed living representative. 14. The Idea wanders
homeless till it can find a new community to mould (‘until he can
a maiden win’). 15 to 17. Finding whom, the Idea finds itself
also living under strangely different
conditions. 18. The Idea is now
“beguiled to infancy”—becomes a
Idea, in working upon a fresh community, and under
altered conditions. 20. Nor are they yet thoroughly at one; she flees away
while he pursues. 22. Here we return to the first state of the case. The
Idea starts upon a new course—is a babe; the society it works
upon has become an old society—no longer a fair virgin, but an
aged woman. 24. The Idea seems so new and unwonted that, the nearer it is
seen, the more consternation it excites. 26. None can deal with the Idea so
as to develop it to the full, except the old society with which it comes
into contact; and this can deal with it only by misusing it at first,
whereby (as in the previous stage, at the opening of the poem) it is to be
again disciplined into ultimate triumph.
- I travelled through a land of men,
- A land of men and women too;
- And heard and saw such dreadul things
- As cold earth-wanderers never knew.
- For there the babe is born in joy
- That was begotten in dire woe;
- Just as we reap in joy the fruit
- Which we in bitter tears did sow.
- And if the babe is born a boy,
10He’s given to a woman old,
- Who nails him down upon a rock,
- Catches his shrieks in cups of gold.
- She binds strong thorns around his head,
- She pierces both his hands and feet,
- She cuts his heart out at his side,
- To make it feel both cold and heat.
- Her fingers number every nerve
- Just as a miser counts his gold;
- She lives upon his shrieks and cries,
20And she grows young as he grows old.
- Till he becomes a bleeding youth,
- And she becomes a virgin bright;
- Then he rends up his manacles
- And binds her down for his delight.
- He plants himself in all her nerves
- Just as a husbandman his mould,
- And she becomes his dwelling-place
- And garden fruitful seventyfold.
- An aged shadow soon he fades,
30Wandering round an earthly cot,
- Full fillèd all with gems and gold
- Which he by industry had got.
- And these are the gems of the human soul,
- The rubies and pearls of a lovesick eye,
- The countless gold of the aching heart,
- The martyr’s groan and the
- They are his meat, they are his drink;
- He feeds the beggar and the poor;
- To the wayfaring traveller
40For ever open is his door.
- His grief is their eternal joy,
- They make the roofs and walls to ring;
- Till from the fire upon the hearth
- A little female babe doth spring.
- And she is all of solid fire
- And gems and gold, that none his hand
- Dares stretch to touch her baby form
- Or wrap her in his swaddling band.
- But she comes to the man she loves,
50If young or old or rich or poor;
- They soon drive out the aged host,
- A beggar at another’s door.
- He wanders weeping far away,
- Until some other take him in;
- Oft blind and age-bent, sore distres’d,
- Until he can a maiden win.
- And to allay his freezing age,
- The poor man takes her in his arms;
- The cottage fades before his sight,
60The garden and its lovely charms.
- The guests are scattered through the land;
- For the eye altering alters all;
- The senses roll themselves in fear,
- And the flat earth becomes a ball.
- The stars, sun, moon, all shrink away,
- A desert vast without a bound,
- And nothing left to eat or drink,
- And a dark desert all around:
- The honey of her infant lips,
70The bread and wine of her sweet smile,
- The wild game of her roving eye,
- Do him to infancy beguile.
- For as he eats and drinks be grows
- Younger and younger every day,
- And on the desert wild they both
- Wander in terror and dismay.
- Like the wild stag she flees away;
- Her fear plants many a thicket wild,
- While he pursues her night and day,
80 By various arts of love beguiled.
- By various arts of love and hate,
- Till the wild desert’s planted
- With labyrinths of wayward love,
- Where roam the lion, wolf, and boar.
- Till he becomes a wayward babe,
- And she a weeping woman old;
- Then many a lover wanders here,
- The sun and stars are nearer rolled;
- The trees bring forth sweet ecstacy
90To all who in the desert roam;
- Till many a city there is built,
- And many a pleasant shepherd’s home.
- But when they find the frowning babe,
- Terror strikes through the region wide:
- They cry—‘the babe—the babe is
- And flee away on every side.
- For who dare touch the frowning form,
- His arm is withered to its root:
- Bears, lions, wolves, all howling flee,
100 And every tree doth shed its fruit.
- And none can touch that frowning form
- Except it be a woman old;
- She nails it down upon the rock,
- And all is done as I have told.
- To a lovely myrtle bound,
- Blossoms showering all around,
- O how weak and weary I
- Underneath my myrtle lie!
- Why should I be bound to thee,
- O my lovely myrtle tree?
- Love, free love, cannot be bound
- To any tree that grows on ground.
- I wonder whether the girls are mad,
- And I wonder whether they mean to kill,
- And I wonder if William Bond will die,
- For assuredly he is very ill.
- He went to church on a May morning,
- Attended by fairies, one, two, and three;
- But the angels of Providence drove them away,
- And he returned home in misery.
- He went not out to the field nor fold,
10He went not out to the village nor town,
- But he came home in a black black cloud,
- And took to his bed, and there lay down.
- And an angel of Providence at his feet,
- And an angel of Providence at his head,
- And in the midst a black black cloud,
- And in the midst the sick man on his bed.
- And on his right hand was Mary Green,
- And on his left hand was his sister Jane,
- And their tears fell through the black black cloud
20To drive away the sick man’s pain.
- ‘O William, if thou dost another love,
- Dost another love better than poor Mary,
- Go and take that other to be thy wife,
- And Mary Green shall her servant be.’
- ‘Yes, Mary, I do another love,
- Another I love far better than thee,
- And another I will have for my wife:
- Then what have I to do with thee?
- ‘For thou art melancholy pale,
30And on thy head is the cold moon’s shine,
- But she is ruddy and bright as day,
- And the sunbeams dazzle from her eyne.’
- Mary trembled, and Mary chilled,
- And Mary fell down on the right-hand floor,
- That William Bond and his sister Jane
- Scarce could recover Mary more.
- When Mary woke and found her laid
- On the right-hand of her William dear,
- On the right-hand of his loved bed,
40And saw her William Bond so near;
- The fairies that fled from William Bond
- Danced around her shining head;
- They danced over the pillow white,
- And the angels of Providence left the bed.
- ‘I thought Love lived in the hot sunshine,
- But oh, he lives in the moony light;
- I thought to find Love in the heat of day,
- But sweet Love is the comforter of night.
- ‘Seek Love in the pity of others’ woe,
50In the gentle relief of another’s care,
- In the darkness of night and the winter’s snow,
- With the naked and outcast,—seek Love
- Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau,
- Mock on, mock on; ’tis all in vain;
- You throw the sand against the wind,
- And the wind blows it back again.
- And every sand becomes a gem
- Reflected in the beams divine;
- Blown back, they blind the mocking eye
- But still in Israel’s paths they shine.
- The atoms of Democritus
10And Newton’s particles of light
- Are sands upon the Red Sea shore
- Where Israel’s tents do shine so bright.
- ‘I see, I see,’ the mother
- ‘My children will die for lack of bread!
- What more has the merciless tyrant said?’
- The monk sat him down on her stony bed.
- His eye was dry, no tear could flow,
- A hollow groan bespoke his woe;
- He trembled and shuddered upon the bed;
- At length with a feeble cry he said:—
- ‘When God commanded this hand to write
10In the shadowy hours of deep midnight,
- He told me that all I wrote should prove
- The bane of all that on earth I love.
- ‘My brother starved between two walls,
- Thy children’s crying my soul appals;
- I mocked at the rack and the griding chain,—
- My bent body mocks at their torturing pain.
- ‘Thy father drew his sword in the north,
- With his thousands strong he is marched forth;
- Thy brother hath armed himself in steel,
20 To revenge the wrongs thy children feel.
- But vain the sword, and vain the bow,—
- They never can work war’s overthrow;
- The hermit’s player and the widow’s tear
- Alone can free the world from fear.
- ‘For a tear is an intellectual thing,
- And a sigh is the sword of an angel king;
- And the bitter groan of a martyr’s woe
- Is an arrow from the Almighty’s bow.
- ‘The hand of vengeance found the bed
30To which the purple tyrant fled;
- The iron hand crushed the tyrant’s head,
- And became a tyrant in his stead.’
- To find the western path,
- Right through the gates of wrath
- I urge my way;
- Sweet morning leads me on;
- With soft repentant moan
- I see the break of day.
- The war of swords and spears,
- Melted by dewy tears,
- Exhales on high;
10The sun is freed from fears,
- And with soft grateful tears
- Ascends the sky.
- Why should I care for the men of Thames
- And the cheating waters of chartered streams;
- Or shrink at the little blasts of fear
- That the hireling blows into mine ear?
- Though born on the cheating banks of Thames—
- Though his waters bathed my infant limbs—
- The Ohio shall wash his stains from me;
- I was born a slave, but I go to be free.
- Are not the joys of morning sweeter
- Than the joys of night?
- And are the vigorous joys of youth
- Ashamed of the light?
- Let age and sickness silent rob
- The vineyard in the night;
- But those who burn with vigorous youth
- Pluck fruits before the light.
- Since all the riches of this world
- May be gifts from the devil and earthly kings,
- I should suspect that I worshipped the devil
- If I thanked my God for worldly things.
- The countless gold of a merry heart,
- The rubies and pearls of a loving eye,
- The idle man never can bring to the mart
- Nor the cunning hoard up in his treasury.
- He who bends to himself a joy
- Does the wingèd life destroy;
- But he who kisses the joy as it flies
- Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
- If you trap the moment before it’s ripe,
- The tears of repentance you’ll certainly wipe;
- But if once you let the ripe moment go
- You can never wipe off the tears of woe.
- ‘Thou hast a lapful of seed
- And this is a fair country.
- Why dost thou not cast thy seed
- And live in it merrily?’
- ‘Shall I cast it on the sand
- And turn it into fruitful land?
- For on no other ground can I sow my seed
- Without tearing up some stinking weed.’
- I feared the fury of my wind
- Would blight all blossoms fair and true;
- And my sun it shined and shined,
- And my wind it never blew.
- But a blossom fair or true
- Was not found on any tree;
- For all blossoms grew and grew
- Fruitless, false, though fair to see.
- Silent, silent Night,
- Quench the holy light
- Of thy torches bright;
- For, possessed of Day,
- Thousand spirits stray
- That sweet joys betray.
- Why should joys be sweet
- Usèd with deceit,
- Nor with sorrows meet?
10But an honest joy
- Doth itself destroy
- For a harlot coy.
- Love to faults is always blind,
- Always is to joy incl’d,
- Lawless, winged and unconfin’d,
- And breaks all chains from every mind.
- Deceit, to secrecy inclin’d,
- Moves lawful, courteous and refin’d,
- To everything but interests blind,
- And forges fetters for the mind.
- There souls of men are bought and sold,
10And milk-fed infancy, for gold,
- And youth to slaugher-houses led,
- And beauty, for a bit of bread.
- I walked abroad on a snowy day,
- I asked the soft snow with me to play;
- She played and she melted in all her prime;
- And the winter called it a dreadful crime.
- Abstinence sows sand all over
- The ruddy limbs and flaming hair;
- But desire gratified
- Plants fruits of life and beauty there.
- The look of love alarms,
- Because ’tis filled with fire,
- But the look of soft deceit
- Shall win the lover’s hire:
- Soft deceit and idleness,
- These are beauty’s sweetest dress.
- To Chloe’s breast young Cupid slily stole,
- But he crept in at Myra’s pocket-hole.
- Great things are done when men and mountains meet;
- These are not done by jostling in the street.
- The errors of a wise man make your rule,
- Rather than the perfections of a fool.
- Some people admire the work of a fool,
- For it’s sure to keep your judgment cool:
- It does not reproach you with want of wit;
- It is not like a lawyer serving a writ.
- He’s a blockhead who wants a proof of what he
- And he’s a fool who tries to make such a blockhead
- If e’er I grow to man’s estate,
- O give to me a woman’s fate.
- May I govern all both great and small,
- Have the last word, and take the wall!
- Her whole life is an epigram—smack, smooth, and
- Plaited quite neat to catch applause, with a strong noose at
- To forgive enemies Hayley does pretend,
- Who never in his life forgave a friend.
- You say reserve and modesty
- Whose heart is iron, his head wood, and his face brass.
- The fox, the owl, the spider, and the bat
- By sweet reserve and modesty grow fat.
- Why of the sheep do you not learn peace?
- Because I don’t want you to shear my fleece.
- Here lies John Trot, the friend of all mankind;
- He has not left one enemy behind.
- Friends were quite hard to find, old authors say;
- But now they stand in everybody’s way.
- Grown old in love from seven till seven times seven,
- I oft have wished for hell, for ease from heaven.
- Prayers plough not, praises reap not,
- Joys laugh not, sorrows weep not.
- The Sword sang on the barren heath,
- The Sickle in the fruitful field;
- The Sword he sang a song of death
- But could not make the Sickle yield.
- O Lapwing, thou fliest across the heath,
- Nor seest the net that is spread beneath:
- Why dost thou not fly among the corn-fields?
- They cannot spread nets where a harvest yields.
- The Angel that presided o’r my birth
- said: “Little creature, formed of joy and mirth,
- Go, love without the help of anything on earth.”
- I asked of my dear friend orator Prig:
- ‘What’s the first part of
oratory?’ He said: ‘a great wig.’
- ‘And what is the second?’ Then, dancing
- And bowing profoundly, he said:‘great
- ‘And what is the third?’ Then he snored
like a pig,
- And, puffing his cheeks out, replied: ‘A great
- So if to a painter the question you push,
- ‘What’s the first part of
painting?’ he’ll say: ‘A
- ‘And what is the second?’ with most
10 He’ll smile like a cherub, and say: “A
- ‘And what is the third?’
he’ll bow like a rush,
- With a leer in his eye, and reply: “A
- Perhaps this is all a painter can want:
- But look yonder,—that house is the house of
- ‘O dear mother Outline, of wisdom most sage,
- What’s the first part of painting?’ She
- ‘And what is the second to please and
- She frowned like a fury, and said:
- ‘And what is the third?’ She put off old
- And smiled like a syren, and said:
- Give pensions to the learned pig,
- Or the hare playing on a tabor;
- Anglus can never see perfection
- But in the journeyman’s labour.
- As the ignorant savage will sell his own wife
- For a button, a bauble, a bead, or a knife,—
- So the taught savage Englishman spends his whole fortune
- On a smear or a squall to destroy picture or tune:
- And I call upon Colonel Wardle
10To give these rascals a dose of caudle.
- All pictures that’s painted with sense or with
- Are painted by madmen, as sure as a groat;
- For the greater the fool, in the Art the more blest,
- And when they are drunk they always paint best.
- They never can Raphael it, Fuseli it, nor Blake it:
- If they can’t see an outline, pray how can they
- All men have drawn outlines whenever they saw them;
- Madmen see outlines, and therefore they draw them.
- Seeing a Rembrandt or Correggio,
- Of crippled Harry I think and slobbering Joe;
- And then I question thus: Are artists’ rules
- To be drawn from the works of two manifest fools?
- Then God defend us from the Arts, I say;
- For battle, murder, sudden death, let’s pray.
- Rather than be such a blind human fool,
- I’d be an ass, a hog, a worm, a chair, a stool.
- You must agree that Rubens was a fool,
- And yet you make him master of your school,
- And give more money for his slobberings
- Than you will give for Raphael’s finest things.
- I understood Christ was a carpenter,
- And not a brewer’s servant, my good Sir.
- Sir Joshua praises Michael Angelo;
- ’Tis Christian meekness thus to praise a
- But ’twould be madness, all the world would say,
- Should Michael Angelo praise Sir Joshua.
- Christ used the Pharisees in a rougher way.
- You call me mad; ’tis folly to do so,—
- To seek to turn a madman to a foe.
- If you think as you speak, you are an ass;
- If you do not, you are but what you was.
- I mock thee not, though I by thee am mockèd;
- Thou call’st me madman, but I call thee blockhead.
- Thank God, I never was sent to school
- To be flogged into following the style of a fool!
THE GHOST OF ABEL.
A VISION OF THE LAST JUDGEMENT.
Of the prose writings which now follow, the only ones already
print are the
Descriptive Catalogue and the
Sybilline Leaves. To the
former of these, the
which here succeeds it forms a
fitting and most interesting pendant. It
has been compiled from a
very confused mass of MS. notes; but its
purpose is unmistakeable
as having been intended for an accompaniment
to the engraving
critical passages on painting and poetry, which must be ranked
out reserve among the very best things ever said on either
Such inestimable qualities afford quite sufficient ground
claim indulgence for eccentricities which are here and there
excessive, but which never fail to have a personal, even
have no critical, value. As evidence of the
writer’s many moods,
these pieces of prose are much best
left unmutilated. Let us,
therefore, risk misconstruction in some
quarters; there are others
where even the whimsical onslaughts on names
no less great than
those which the writer most highly honoured, and
assertions as to this
or that component quality of art being everything
or nothing as
it served the fiery plea in hand, will be discerned as
extremes of a man who had his own work to do, which was
kind, as he thought, against another, and who mainly did it too,
spite of that injustice without which no extremes might ever
been chargeable against him. And let us remember that, after
having greatness in him, his
practice of art
all great aims,
whether they were such as
his antagonistic moods railed against
is almost as much a manifesto of opinion as either the
. But its work is
in a wider field, and one which,
where it stretches beyond our own
clear view, may not necessarily
therefore have been a lost road to
Blake himself. Certainly its
grandeur and the sudden great things
greatly said in it, as in all
Blake’s prose, constitute it an
addition to our opportunities of com-
muning with him, and one which we
may prize highly.
The constant decisive words in which Blake alludes, throughout
writing, to the plagiarisms of his contemporaries, are painful to
and will be wished away; but still it will be worth thinking
their being said, or the need of their being said, is the
for complaint. Justice, looking through surface accom-
greater nicety and even greater occasional judiciousness
in the men whom Blake compares with himself, still
words of his to be true. In each style of the art of a
period, and more
especially in the poetic style, there is often some
derivative man, to whom personally, if not to the care of
the world, it
is important that his creative power should be held
to be his own, and
that his ideas and slowly perfected materials
should not be caught up
before he has them ready for his own use.
Yet, consciously or
unconsciously, such an one’s treasures and pos-
time after time, while he still lives and needs them, sent
forth to the
world by others in forms from which he cannot perhaps
claim what is his own, but which render the material
useless to him
henceforward. Hardly wonderful, after all, if for once
an impetuous man
of this kind is found raising the hue and cry, care-
less whether people
heed him or no. It is no small provocation, be
sure, when the gazers
hoot you as outstripped in your race, and you
know all the time that
the man ahead, whom they shout for, is only
a flying thief.
CONDITIONS OF SALE.
I. One-third of the Price to be paid at the time of Purchase,
and the remainder on Delivery.
II. The Pictures and Drawings to remain in the Exhibition till
its close, which will be the 29th of September, 1809; and the Picture of The Canterbury Pilgrims, which is to
be engraved, will be sold only on condition of its remaining in the
Artist’s hands twelve months, when it will be delivered to
The Spiritual Form of Nelson guiding Leviathan, in
whose wreathings are
infolded the Nations of the Earth.
Clearness and precision have been the chief
objects in painting these Pictures. Clear colours unmudded by oil, and
firm and determinate lineaments unbroken by shadows, which ought to
display and not to hide form, as is the practice of the latter Schools
of Italy and Flanders.
The Spiritual Form of Pitt guiding Behemoth; he is that
Angel who, pleased to perform the Almighty’s orders,
rides on the whirlwind, directing the storms of war; He is
ordering the Reaper to reap the Vine of the Earth, and the
Ploughman to plough up the Cities and Towers.
This Picture also is a proof of the power of
colours unsullied with oil or with any cloggy vehicle. Oil has falsely
been supposed to give strength to colours: but a little consideration
must show the fallacy of this opinion. Oil will not drink or absorb
colour enough to stand the test of very little time and of the air. It
deadens every colour it is mixed with, at its first mixture, and in a
little time becomes a yellow mask over all that it touches. Let the
works of modern Artists since Rubens’ time witness the
villany of some one at that time, who first brought Oil Painting into
general opinion and practice: since which we have never had a Picture
painted, that could show itself by the side of an earlier production.
Whether Rubens or Vandyke, or both, were guilty of this villany, is to
be inquired in another work on Painting, and who first forged the silly
story and known falsehood about John of Bruges inventing oil-colours: in
the meantime let it be observed, that before Vandyke’s time
and in his time all the genuine Pictures are on Plaster or Whiting
grounds, and none since.
The two Pictures of Nelson and Pitt are compositions of a
mythological cast, similar to those Apotheoses of Persian, Hindoo, and
Egyptian Antiquity, which are still preserved on rude monuments, being
copies from some stupendous originals now lost, or perhaps buried till
some happier age. The Artist having been taken in vision into the
ancient republics, monarchies, and patriarchates of Asia, has seen those
wonderful originals, called in the Sacred Scriptures the Cherubim, which
were sculptured and painted on walls of Temples, Towers, Cities,
Palaces, and erected in the highly cultivated States of Egypt, Moab,
Edom, Aram, among the Rivers of Paradise—being originals from
which the Greeks and Hetrurians copied Hercules Farnese, Venus of
Medicis, Apollo Belvedere, and all the grand works of ancient art. They
were executed in a very superior style to those justly admired copies,
being with their accompaniments terrific and grand in the highest
degree. The Artist has endeavoured
to emulate the grandeur of those seen in his
vision, and to apply it to modern Heroes, on a smaller scale.
No man can believe that either Homer’s Mythology, or
Ovid’s, was the production of Greece, or of Latium; neither
will any one believe that the Greek statues, as they are called, were
the invention of Greek Artists; perhaps the Torso is the only original
work remaining; all the rest are evidently copies, though fine ones,
from greater works of the Asiatic Patriarchs. The Greek Muses are
daughters of Mnemosyne or Memory, and not of Inspiration or Imagination,
therefore not authors of such sublime conceptions. Those wonderful
originals seen in my visions were some of them one hundred feet in
height; some were painted as picture; and some carved as basso-rilievos,
and some as groups of statues, all containing mythological and recondite
meaning, where more is meant than meets the eye. The Artist wishes it
was now the fashion to make such monuments, and then he should not doubt
of having a natural commission to execute these two Pictures on a scale
that is suitable to the grandeur of the nation, who is the parent of his
heroes, in high-finished fresco, where the colours would be as pure and
as permanent as precious stones though the figures were one hundred feet
All Frescoes are as high-finished as miniatures or enamels, and
they are known to be unchangeable; but oil, being a body itself, will
drink or absorb very little colour, and, changing yellow, and at length
brown, destroys every colour it is mixed with, especially every delicate
colour. It turns every permanent white to a yellow and brown putty, and
has compelled the use of that destroyer of colour, white-lead, which,
when its protecting oil is evaporated, will become lead again. This is
an awful thing to say to Oil Painters; they may call it madness, but it
is true. All the genuine old little Pictures, called Cabinet Pictures,
are in fresco and not in oil. Oil was not used, except by blundering
ignorance, till after Vandyke’s time; but the art of
fresco-painting being lost, oil became a fetter to genius and a dungeon
to art. But one convincing proof among many others that these assertions
are true is, that real gold and silver cannot be used with oil, as they
are in all the old pictures and in Mr. B.’s frescoes.
Sir Jeffery Chaucer and the Nine-and-twenty Pilgrims on
their journey to Canterbury.
The time chosen is early morning, before
sunrise, when the jolly company are just quitting the Tabarde Inn. The
Knight and Squire with the Squire’s Yeoman lead the
Procession; next follow the youthful Abbess, her nun, and three priests;
her greyhounds attend her:
- ‘ Of small hounds had she that she fed
- With roast flesh, milk, and wastel bread.’
Next follow the Friar and Monk; then the Tapiser, the Pardoner,
and the Sompnour and Manciple. After these ‘Our
Host,’ who occupies the centre of the cavalcade, directs them
to the Knight as the person who would be likely to commence their task
of each telling a tale in their order. After the Host follow the
Shipman, the Haberdasher, the Dyer, the Franklin, the Physician, the
Ploughman, the Lawyer, the Poor Parson, the Merchant, the Wife of Bath,
the Miller, the Cook, the Oxford Scholar, Chaucer himself; and the Reeve
comes as Chaucer has described,—
- ‘And ever he rode hinderest of the
These last are issuing from the gateway of the Inn; the Cook
and the Wife of Bath are both taking their morning’s draught
of comfort. Spectators stand at the gateway of the Inn, and are composed
of an old Man, a Woman, and Children.
The landscape is an eastward view of the country, from the Tabarde
Inn in Southwark, as it may be supposed to have appeared in
Chaucer’s time; interspersed with cottages and villages. The
first beams of the Sun are seen above the horizon; some buildings and
spires indicate the situation of the Great City. The Inn is a gothic
building, which Thynne in his Glossary says was the lodging of the Abbot
of Hyde, by Winchester. On the Inn is inscribed its title, and a proper
advantage is taken of this circumstance to describe the subject of the
Picture. The words written over the gateway of the Inn are as follow:
‘The Tabarde Inn, by Henry Baillie, the lodgynge-house for
Pilgrims who journey to Saint Thomas’s Shrine at
The characters of Chaucer’s Pilgrims are the characters
which compose all ages and nations. As one age falls, another rises,
different to mortal sight, but to immortals only the same; for we see
the same characters repeated again and again, in animals, vegetables,
minerals, and in men. Nothing new occurs in identical existence;
Accident ever varies, Substance can never suffer change nor decay.
Of Chaucer’s characters, as described in his Canterbury
Tales, some of the names or titles are altered by time, but the
characters themselves for ever remain unaltered; and consequently they
are the physiognomies or lineaments of universal human life, beyond
which Nature never steps. Names alter, things never alter. I have known
multitudes of those who would have been monks in the age of monkery, who
in this deistical age are deists. As Newton numbered the stars, and as
Linnæus numbered the plants, so Chaucer numbered the classes
The Painter has consequntly varied the heads and forms of his
personages into all Nature’s varieties; the Horses he has
also varied to accord to their Riders: the Costume is correct according
to authentic monuments.
The Knight and Squire with the Squire’s Yeoman lead the
procession, as Chaucer has also placed them first in his prologue. The
Knight is a true Hero, a good, great, and wise man; his whole-length
portrait on horseback, as written by Chaucer, cannot be surpassed. He
has spent his life in the field, has ever been a conqueror, and is that
species of character which in every age stands as the guardian of man
against the oppressor. His son is like him, with the germ of perhaps
greater perfection still, as he blends literature and the arts with his
warlike studies. Their dress and their horses are of the first rate,
without ostentation, and with all the true grandeur that unaffected
simplicity when in high rank always displays. The Squire’s
Yeoman is also a great character, a man perfectly knowing in his
- ‘ And in his hand he bare a mighty
Chaucer describes here a mighty man, one who in war is the
worthy attendant on noble heroes.
The Prioress follows there with her female chaplain:
- ‘Another Nonne also with her had she,
- That was her Chaplain, and Priestes three.’
This Lady is described also as of the first
rank, rich and honoured. She has certain peculiarities and little
delicate affectations, not unbecoming in her, being accompanied with
what is truly grand and really polite; her person and face Chaucer has
described with minuteness; it is very elegant, and was the beauty of our
ancestors till after Elizabeth’s time, when voluptuousness
and folly began to be accounted beautiful.
Her companion and her three priests were no doubt all perfectly
delineated in those parts of Chaucer’s work which are now
lost; we ought to suppose them suitable attendants on rank and fashion.
The Monk follows these with the Friar. The Painter has also grouped
with these the Pardoner and the Sompnour and the Manciple, and has here
also introduced one of the rich citizens of
London;—characters likely to ride in company, all being above
the common rank in life, or attendants on those who were so.
For the Monk is described, by Chaucer, as a man of the first rank
in society, noble, rich, and expensively attended: he is a leader of the
age, with certain humorous accompaniments in his character, that do not
degrade, but render him an object of dignified mirth, but also with
other accompaniments not so respectable.
The Friar is a character also of a mixed kind:
- ‘A friar there was, a wanton and a
but in his office he is said to be a ‘full solemn
man:’ eloquent, amorous, witty, and satirical; young,
handsome, and rich; he is a complete rogue; with constitutional gaiety
enough to make him a master of all the pleasures of the world:
- ‘His neck was whitè as the flour
- Thereto strong he was as a champioun.’
It is necessary here to speak of Chaucer’s own
character, that I may set certain mistaken critics right in their
conception of the humour and fun that occur on the journey. Chaucer is
himself the great poetical observer of men, who in every age is born to
record and eternize its acts. This he does as a master, as a father and
superior, who looks down on their little follies from the Emperor to the
Miller: sometimes with severity, oftener with joke and sport.
Accordingly Chaucer has made his Monk a great tragedian, one who
studied poetical art. So much so that the generous Knight is, in the
compassionate dictates of his soul, compelled to cry out:
CHAUCERS CANTERBURY PILGRIMS
Note: This leaf folds out.
Painted in Fresco by
William Blake & by him Engraved & published
October 8 1810 at No 28 Corner 1 Broad Street Golden Square
- ‘Ho,’ quoth the Knyght,
‘ good Sir, no more of this;
- That ye have said is right ynough, I wis,
- And mokell more; for little heaviness
- Is right enough for much folk, as I guess.
- I say, for me, it is a great disease,
- Whereas men havè been in wealth and ease,
- To heare of their sudden fall, alas!
- And the contrary is joy and solas.’
The Monk’s definition of tragedy in the proem to his
tale is worth repeating:
- ‘Tragedy is to tell a certain story,
- As olde books us maken memory,
- Of them that stood in great prosperity,
- And be fallen out of high degree,
- Into misery, and ended wretchedly.’
Though a man of luxury, pride, and pleasure, he is a master of
art and learning, though affecting to despise it. Those who can think
that the proud Huntsman and noble Housekeeper, Chaucer’s
Monk, is intended for a buffoon or burlesque character, know little of
For the Host who follows this group, and holds the centre of the
cavalcade, is a first-rate character, and his jokes are no trifles; they
are always, though uttered with audacity, equally free with the Lord and
the Peasant; they are always substantially and weightily expressive of
knowledge and experience; Henry Baillie, the keeper of the greatest Inn
of the greatest City; for such was the Tabarde Inn in Southwark, near
London: our Host was also a leader of the age.
By way of illustration, I instance Shakspeare’s Witches
in Macbeth. Those who dress them for the stage, consider them as
wretched old women, and not, as Shakspeare intended, the Goddesses of
Destiny; this shows how Chaucer has been misunderstood in
his sublime work. Shakspeare’s Fairies also are the
rulers of the vegetable world, and so are Chaucer’s; let them
be so considered, and then the poet will be understood, and not else.
But I have omitted to speak of a very prominent, character, the
Pardoner, the Age’s Knave, who always commands and domineers
over the high and low vulgar. This man is sent in every age for a rod
and scourge and for a blight, for a trial of men, to divide the classes
of men; he is in the most holy sanctuary, and he is suffered by
Providence for wise ends, and has also his great use, and his grand
His companion the Sompnour is also a Devil of the first magnitude,
grand, terrific, rich, and honoured in the rank of which he holds the
destiny. The uses to society are perhaps equal of the Devil and of the
Angel; their sublimity who can dispute?
- ‘In daunger had he at his owne guise,
- The younge girles of his diocese,
- And he knew well their counsel,
The principal figure in the next group is the Good Parson: an
Apostle, a real Messenger of Heaven, sent in every age for its light and
its warmth. This man is beloved and venerated by all, and neglected by
all: he serves all, and is served by none. He is, according to
Christ’s definition, the greatest of his age: yet he is a
Poor Parson of a town. Read Chaucer’s description of the Good
Parson, and bow the head and the knee to Him, Who, in every age, sends
us such a burning and a shining light. Search, O ye rich and powerful,
for these men and obey their counsel; then shall the golden age return.
But alas! you will not easily distinguish him from the Friar or the
Pardoner; they also are ‘full solemn men,’ and
their counsel you will continue to follow.
I have placed by his side the Sergeant-at-Lawe, who appears
delighted to ride in his company, and between him and his brother the
Ploughman; as I wish men of Law would always ride with them, and take
their counsel, especially in all difficult points. Chaucer’s
Lawyer is a character of great venerableness, a Judge, and a real master
of the jurisprudence of his age.
The Doctor of Physic is in this group, and the Franklin, the
voluptuous country gentleman; contrasted with the Physician, and, on his
other hand, with two Citizens of London. Chaucer’s characters
live age after age. Every age is a Canterbury Pilgrimage; we all pass
on, each sustaining one or other of these characters; nor can a child be
born who is not one of these characters of Chaucer. The Doctor of Physic
is described as the first of his profession: perfect, learned,
completely Master and Doctor in his art. Thus the reader will observe
that Chaucer makes every one of his characters perfect in his kind;
every one is an Antique Statue, the image of a class, and not of an
This group also would furnish substantial matter, on which volumes
might be written. The Franklin is one who keeps open table, who is the
genius of eating and drinking, the Bacchus; as the Doctor of Physic is
the Æsculapius, the host is the Silenus, the Squire is the
Apollo, the Miller is the Hercules,
&c. Chaucer’s characters are a description of the
eternal Principles that exist in all ages. The Franklin is
voluptuousness itself most nobly portrayed
- ‘It snewèd in his house of meat
The Ploughman is simplicity itself, with wisdom and strength for
its stamina. Chaucer has divided the ancient character of Hercules
between his Miller and his Ploughman. Benevolence is the
Ploughman’s great characteristic; he is thin with excessive
labour, and not with old age, as some have supposed:
- ‘He woulde thresh, and thereto dike and
- For Christe’s sake, for every poore wight,
- Withouten hire, if it lay in his might.’
Visions of these eternal principles or characters of human life
appear to poets in all ages; the Grecian gods were the ancient Cherubim
of Phœnicia; but the Greeks, and since them the Moderns, have
neglected to subdue the gods of Priam. These Gods are visions of the
eternal attributes, or divine names, which, when erected into gods,
become destructive to humanity. They ought to be the servants, and not
the masters, of man or of society. They ought to be made to sacrifice to
Man, and not man compelled to sacrifice to them; for, when separated
from man or humanity, who is Jesus the Saviour, the vine of eternity?
They are thieves and rebels, they are destroyers.
The Ploughman of Chaucer is Hercules in his supreme eternal state,
divested of his spectrous shadow; which is the Miller, a terrible
fellow, such as exists in all times and places, for the trial of men, to
astonish every neighbourhood with brutal strength and courage, to get
rich and powerful, to curb the pride of Man.
The Reeve and the Manciple are two characters of the most
consummate worldly wisdom. The Shipman, or Sailor, is a similar genius
of Ulyssean art, but with the highest courage superadded.
The Citizens and their Cook are each leaders of a class. Chaucer
has been somehow made to number four citizens, which would make his
whole company, himself included, thirty-one. But he says there were but
nine-and-twenty in his company:
- ‘ Full nine-and-twenty in a
The Webbe, or Weaver, and the Tapiser, or Tapestry Weaver, appear
to me to be the same person; but this is only an opinion,
for full nine-and-twenty may signify one more
or less. But I daresay that Chaucer wrote ‘A Webbe
Dyer,’ that is a Cloth Dyer:
- ‘A Webbe Dyer and a Tapiser.’
The Merchant cannot be one of the Three Citizen; as his dress is
different, and his character is more marked, whereas Chaucer says of his
- ‘All were yclothèd in one
The characters of Women Chaucer has divided into two classes, the
Lady Prioress and the Wife of Bath. Are not these leaders of the ages of
men? The Lady Prioress in some ages predominates, and in some the Wife
of Bath, in whose character Chaucer has been equally minute and exact;
because she is also a scourge and a blight. I shall say no more of her,
nor expose what Chaucer has left hidden; let the young reader study what
he has said of her: it is useful as a scarecrow. There are of such
characters born too many for the peace of the world.
I come at length to the Clerk of Oxenford. This character varies
from that of Chaucer, as the contemplative philosopher varies from the
poetical genius. There are always these two classes of learned sages,
the poetical and the philosophical. The Painter has put them side by
side, as if the youthful clerk had put himself under the tuition of the
mature poet. Let the Philosopher always be the servant and scholar of
Inspiration, and all will be happy.
Such are the characters that compose this Picture, which was
painted in self-defence against the insolent and envious imputation of
unfitness for finished and scientific art, and this imputation most
artfully and industriously endeavoured to be propagated among the public
by ignorant hirelings. The Painter courts comparison with his
competitors, who, having received fourteen hundred guineas and more from
the profits of
his designs in that well-known work,
Designs for Blair’s Grave, have left him to shift for
himself; while others, more obedient to an employer’s
opinions and directions, are employed, at a great expense, to produce
works in succession to his by which they acquired public patronage. This
has hitherto been his lot—to get patronage for others and
then to be left and neglected, and his work, which gained that
patronage, cried down as eccentricity and madness—as
unfinished and neglected by the artist’s violent temper: he
is sure the works now exhibited will give the lie to such aspersions.
Those who say that men are led by interest are knaves. A knavish
character will often say, Of what interest is
it to me to do so and so? I answer, of none at all, but the contrary, as
you well know. It is of malice and envy that you have done this; hence I
am aware of you, because I know that you act not from interest but from
malice, even to your own destruction. It is therefore become a duty
which Mr. B. owes to the Public, who have always recognised him and
patronized him, however hidden by artifices, that he should not suffer
such things to be done, or be hindered from the public Exhibition of his
finished productions by any calumnies in future.
The character and expression in this Picture could never have been
produced with Rubens’ light and shadow, or with
Rembrandt’s, or anything Venetian or Flemish. The Venetian
and Flemish practice is broken lines, broken masses, and broken colours:
Mr. B.’s practice is unbroken lines, unbroken masses, and
unbroken colours. Their art is to lose form; his art is to find form,
and to keep it. His arts are opposite to theirs in all things.
As there is a class of men whose whole delight is in the
destruction of men, so there is a class of artists whose whole art and
science is fabricated for the purpose of destroying Art. Who these are
is soon known: ‘by their works ye shall know
them.’ All who endeavour to raise up a style against Raphael,
Michael Angelo, and the Antique; those who separate Painting from
Drawing; who look if a picture is well Drawn, and if it is, immediately
cry out that it cannot be well Coloured—those are the men.
But to show the stupidity of this class of men, nothing need be
done but to examine my rival’s prospectus.
The two first characters in Chaucer, the Knight and the Squire, he
has put among his rabble; and indeed his prospectus calls the Squire
‘the fop of Chaucer’s age.’ Now hear
- ‘Of his Statùre, he was of even
- And wonderly deliver, and of great strength;
- And he had be sometime in chivauchy,
- In Flanders, in Artois, and in Picardy,
- And borne him well as of so litele space.’
Was this a fop?
- ‘Well could he sit a horse, and faire ride,
- He could songs make, and ekè well indite,
- Joust, and eke dancè, portray, and well
Was this a fop?
- ‘Curteis he was, and meek, and serviceable;
- And kerft before his fader at the table.’
It is the same with all his characters; he has done all by chance,
or perhaps his fortune, money, money. According to his prospectus he has
Three Monks; these he cannot find in Chaucer, who has only One Monk, and
that no vulgar character, as he has endeavoured to make him. When men
cannot read, they should not pretend to paint. To be sure Chaucer is a
little difficult to him who has only blundered over novels and
catchpenny trifles of booksellers; yet a little pains ought to be taken,
even by the ignorant and weak. He has put the Reeve, a vulgar fellow,
between his Knight and Squire, as if he was resolved to go contrary in
everything to Chaucer, who says of the Reeve—
- ‘ And ever he rode hinderest of the
In this manner he has jumbled his dumb dollies together, and is
praised by his equals for it; for both himself and his friend are
equally masters of Chaucer’s language. They both think that
the Wife of Bath is a young beautiful blooming damsel; and H—
says, that she is the ‘Fair Wife of Bath,’ and
that ‘the Spring appears in her cheeks.’ Now hear
what Chaucer has made her say of herself, who is no modest one:
- ‘But Lord! when it remembereth me
- Upon my youth and on my jollity,
- It tickleth me about the hearte root.
- Unto this day it doth my hearte boot
- That I have had my world as in my time;
- But age, alas, that all will envenime,
- Hath me bireft, my beauty and my pith
- Let go; farewell! the devil go therewith!
- The flour is gone, there is no more to tell:
10The bran, as best I can, I now mote sell;
- And yet, to be right merry, will I fond
- Now forth to telle of my fourth husbond.’
She has had four husbands, a fit subject for this painter; yet the
painter ought to be very much offended with his friend H—,
who has called his ‘a common scene,’ and
‘very ordinary forms;’ which is the truest part of
all, for it is so, and very wretchedly so indeed. What merit can there
be in a picture of which such words are spoken with truth?
But the prospectus says that the Painter has represented Chaucer
himself as a knave who thrusts himself among honest people to make game
of and laugh at them; though I must do justice to the Painter, and say
that he has made him look more like a fool than a knave.
But it appears in all the writings of
Chaucer, and particularly in his Canterbury Tales, that he was very
devout, and paid respect to true enthusiastic superstition. He has
laughed at his knaves and fools as I do now. But he has respected his
True Pilgrims, who are a majority of his company, and are not thrown
together in the random manner that Mr. S— has done. Chaucer
has nowhere called the Ploughman old, worn out with ‘age and
labour,’ as the prospectus has represented him, and says that
the picture has done so too. He is worn down with labour, but not with
age. How spots of brown and yellow, smeared about at random, can be
either young or old, I cannot see. It may be an old man; it may be a
young one; it may be anything that a prospectus pleases. But I know that
where there are no lineaments there can be no character. And what
connoisseurs call touch, I know by experience, must be the destruction
of all character and expression, as it is of every lineament.
The scene of Mr. S—’s Picture is by Dulwich
Hills, which was not the way to Canterbury; but perhaps the Painter
thought he would give them a ride round about, because they were a
burlesque set of scarecrows, not worth any man’s respect or
But the Painter’s thoughts being always upon gold, he
has introduced a character that Chaucer has not—namely, a
Goldsmith, for so the prospectus tells us. Why he has introduced a
Goldsmith, and what is the wit of it, the prospectus does not explain.
But it takes care to mention the reserve and modesty of the Painter;
this makes a good epigram enough:
- ‘The fox, the mole, the beetle, and the bat,
- By sweet reserve and modesty get fat’
But the prospectus tells us that the Painter has introduced a
‘Sea Captain;’ Chaucer has a Shipman, a Sailor, a
Trading Master of a Vessel, called by courtesy Captain, as every master
of a boat is; but this does not make him a Sea Captain. Chaucer has
purposely omitted such a personage, as it only exists in certain
periods: it is the soldier by sea. He who would be a soldier in inland
nations is a sea-captain in commercial nations.
All is misconceived, and its mis-execution is equal to its
misconception. I have no objection to Rubens and Rembrandt being
employed, or even to their living in a palace; but it shall not be at
the expense of Raphael and Michael Angelo living in a cottage, and in
contempt and derision. I have been scorned long enough by
these fellows, who owe to me all that they
have; it shall be so no longer:
- ‘I found them blind, I taught them how to
- And now they know neither themselves nor
The Bard, from Gray.
- On a rock, whose haughty brow
- Frown’d o’er old Conway’s
- Robed in the sable garb of woe,
- With haggard eyes the Poet stood:
- Loose his beard and hoary hair
- Stream’d like a meteor to the troubled air.
- Weave the warp, and weave the woof,
- The winding-sheet of Edward’s race.
Weaving the winding-sheet of Edward’s
race by means of sounds of spiritual music, and its accompanying
expressions of articulate speech, is a bold, and daring, and most
masterly conception, that the public have embraced and approved with
avidity. Poetry consists in these conceptions; and shall Painting be
confined to the sordid drudgery of fac-simile representations of merely
mortal and perishing substances, and not be, as poetry and music are,
elevated into its own proper sphere of invention and visionary
conception? No, it shall not be so! Painting, as well as poetry and
music, exists and exults in immortal thoughts. If Mr. B’s
Canterbury Pilgrims had been done by any other power than that of the
poetic visionary, it would have been as dull as his
The Spirits of the murdered bards assist in weaving the deadly
- With me in dreadful harmony they join,
- And weave, with bloody hands, the tissue of thy line.
The connoisseurs and artists who have made objections to Mr.
B’s mode of representing spirits with real bodies would do
well to consider that the Venus, the Minerva, the Jupiter, the Apollo,
which they admire in Greek statues, are all of them representations of
spiritual existences, of Gods immortal, to the mortal perishing organ of
sight; and yet they are embodied and organized in solid marble. Mr. B.
requires the same latitude, and all is well. The Prophets
describe what they saw in Vision as real and
existing men whom they saw with their imaginative and immortal organs;
the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the more distinct the
object. A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the modern philosophy
supposes, a cloudy vapour or a nothing: they are organized and minutely
articulated beyond all that the mortal and perishing nature can produce.
He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in
stronger and better light, than his perishing mortal eye can see, does
not imagine at all. The painter of this work asserts that all his
imaginations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more minutely
organized than anything seen by his mortal eye. Spirits are organized
men: Moderns wish to draw figures without lines, and with great and
heavy shadows; are not shadows more unmeaning than lines, and more
heavy? Oh, who can doubt this!
King Edward and his Queen Eleanor are prostrated, with their hoses,
at the foot of a rock on which the Bard stands; prostrated by the
terrors of his harp, on the margin of the River Conway, whose waves bear
up a corse of a slaughtered bard at the foot of the rock. The armies of
Edward are seen winding among the mountains:
- ‘He wound with toilsome march his long
Mortimer and Gloucester lie spell-bound behind their king.
The execution of this Picture is also in Water-colours, or Fresco.
The Ancient Britons.
In the last Battle of King Arthur only Three
Britons escaped; these were the Strongest Man, the
Beautifullest Man, and the Ugliest Man; these three marched
through the field unsubdued, as Gods, and the Sun of Britain
set, but shall arise again with tenfold splendour when
Arthur shall awake from sleep, and resume his dominion over
earth and ocean.
The three general classes of men who are
represented by the most Beautiful, the most Strong, and the most Ugly,
could not be represented by any historical facts but those of our own
country, the Ancient Britons, without violating costume. The Britons
historians) were naked civilized men,
learned, studious, abstruse in thought and contemplation; naked, simple,
plain, in their acts and manners; wiser than after-ages. They were
overwhelmed by brutal arms, all but a small remnant; Strength, Beauty,
and Ugliness escaped the wreck, and remain for ever unsubdued, age after
The British Antiquities are now in the Artist’s hands;
all his visionary contemplations relating to his own country and its
ancient glory, when it was, as it again shall be, the source of learning
and inspiration—(Arthur was a name for the Constellation
Arcturus, or Boötes, the Keeper of the North Pole); and all
the fables of Arthur and his Round Table; of the warlike naked Britons;
of Merlin; of Arthur’s conquest of the whole world; of his
death, or sleep, and promise to return again; of the Druid monuments, or
temples; of the pavement of Watling-street; of London stone; of the
caverns in Cornwall, Wales, Derbyshire, and Scotland; of the Giants of
Ireland and Britain; of the elemental beings, called by us by the
general name of Fairies; and of these three who escaped, namely, Beauty,
Strength, and Ugliness. Mr. B. has in his hands poems of the highest
antiquity. Adam was a Druid, and Noah; also Abraham was called to
succeed the Druidical age, which began to turn allegoric and mental
signification into corporeal command, whereby human sacrifice would have
depopulated the earth. All these things are written in Eden. The Artist
is an inhabitant of that happy country; and if everything goes on as it
has begun, the world of vegetation and generation may expect to be
opened again to Heaven, through Eden, as it was in the beginning.
The Strong Man represents the human sublime; the Beautiful Man
represents the human pathetic, which was in the wars of Eden divided
into male and female; the Ugly Man represents the human reason. They
were originally one man, who was fourfold; he was self-divided, and his
real humanity slain on the stems of generation, and the form of the
fourth was like the Son of God. How he became divided is a subject of
great sublimity and pathos. The Artist has written it under inspiration,
and will, if God please, publish it; it is voluminous, and contains the
ancient history of Britain, and the world of Satan and of Adam.
In the meantime he has painted this Picture, which supposes that in
the reign of that British Prince, who lived in the fifth century, there
were remains of those naked Heroes in the Welch Mountains; they are
there now—Gray saw them in the person of his Bard on
Snowdon; there they dwell in naked
simplicity; happy is he who can see and converse with them above the
shadows of generation and death. The Giant Albion was Patriarch of the
Atlantic; he is the Atlas of the Greeks, one of those the Greeks called
Titans. The stories of Arthur are the acts of Albion, applied to a
Prince of the fifth century, who conquered Europe, and held the Empire
of the world in the dark age, which the Romans never again recovered. In
this Picture, believing with Milton the ancient British History, Mr. B.
has done as all the ancients did, and as all the moderns who are worthy
of fame—given the historical fact in its poetical vigour, so
as it always happens, and not in that dull way that some Historians
pretend, who, being weakly organized themselves, cannot see either
miracle or prodigy: all is to them a dull round of probabilities and
possibilities; but the history of all times and places is nothing else
but improbabilities and impossibilities—what we should say
was impossible if we did not see it always before our eyes.
The antiquities of every Nation under Heaven are no less sacred
than those of the Jews. They are the same thing; as Jacob Bryant and all
antiquaries have proved. How other antiquities came to be neglected and
disbelieved, while those of the Jews are collected and arranged, is an
inquiry worthy of both the Antiquarian and the Divine. All had
originally one language, and one religion; this was the religion of
Jesus, the everlasting Gospel. Antiquity preaches the Gospel of Jesus.
The reasoning historian, turner and twister of causes and
consequences—such as Hume, Gibbon, and
Voltaire—cannot, with all his artifice, turn or twist one
fact or disarrange self-evident action and reality. Reasons and opinions
concerning acts are not history; acts themselves alone are history, and
these are not the exclusive property of either Hume, Gibbon, or
Voltaire, Echard, Rapin, Plutarch, or Herodotus. Tell me the Acts, O
historian, and leave me to reason upon them as I please; away with your
reasoning and your rubbish! All that is not action is not worth reading.
Tell me the What; I do not want you to tell me the Why, and the How; I
can find that out myself, as well as you can, and I will not be fooled
by you into opinions, that you please to impose, to disbelieve what you
think improbable or impossible. His opinion who does not see spiritual
agency is not worth any man’s reading; he who rejects a fact
because it is improbable must reject all History, and retain doubts
It has been said to the Artist, Take the Apollo for the model of
your Beautiful Man, and the Hercules for your Strong Man, and the
Dancing Faun for your Ugly Man. Now he comes
to his trial. He knows that what he does is not inferior to the grandest
Antiques. Superior it cannot be, for human power cannot go beyond either
what he does, or what they have done; it is the gift of God, it is
inspiration and vision. He had resolved to emulate those precious
remains of antiquity; he has done so, and the result you behold; his
ideas of strength and beauty have not been greatly different. Poetry as
it exists now on earth, in the various remains of ancient authors, Music
as it exists in old tunes or melodies, Painting and Sculpture as they
exist in the remains of Antiquity and in the works of more modern
genius—each is Inspiration, and cannot be surpassed; it is
perfect and eternal. Milton, Shakspeare, Michael Angelo, Raphael, the
finest specimens of Ancient Sculpture and Painting and Architecture,
Gothic, Grecian, Hindoo, and Egyptian, are the extent of the human mind.
The human mind cannot go beyond the gift of God, the Holy Ghost. To
suppose that Art can go beyond the finest specimens of Art that are now
in the world is not knowing what Art is; it is being blind to the gifts
of the Spirit.
It will be necessary for the Painter to say something concerning
his ideas of Beauty, Strength, and Ugliness.
The Beauty that is annexed and appended to folly, is a lamentable
accident and error of the mortal and perishing life; it does but seldom
happen; but with this unnatural mixture the sublime Artist can have
nothing to do; it is fit for the burlesque. The Beauty proper for
sublime art is lineaments, or forms and features, that are capable of
being the receptacles of intellect; accordingly the Painter has given,
in his Beautiful Man, his own idea of intellectual Beauty. The face and
limbs that deviate or alter least, from infancy to old age, are the face
and limbs of greatest Beauty and perfection.
The Ugly likewise, when accompanied and annexed to imbecility and
disease, is a subject for burlesque and not for historical grandeur; the
Artist has imagined his Ugly Man;—one approaching to the
beast in features and form, his forehead small without frontals, his
jaws large, his nose high on the ridge, and narrow, his chest and the
stamina of his make comparatively little, and his joints and his
extremities large; his eyes with scarce any whites, narrow and cunning,
and everything tending toward what is truly Ugly—the
incapability of intellect.
The Artist has considered his Strong Man as a receptacle of
Wisdom, a sublime energizer; his features and limbs do not spindle out
into length without strength, nor are they too large and unwieldy
Note: Type damage obscrures the first letter of the first word on this
for his brain and bosom. Strength consists in
accumulation of power to the principal seat, and from thence a regular
gradation and subordination; strength is compactness, not extent nor
The Strong Man acts from conscious superiority, and marches on in
fearless dependence on the divine decrees, raging with the inspirations
of a prophetic mind. The Beautiful Man acts from duty, and anxious
solicitude for the fates of those for whom he combats. The Ugly Man acts
from love of carnage, and delight in the savage barbarities of war,
rushing with sportive precipitation into the very teeth of the
The Roman Soldiers, rolled together in a heap before them,
‘like the rolling thing before the whirlwind,’
show each a different character, and a different expression of fear, or
revenge, or envy, or blank horror or amazement, or devout wonder and
The dead and the dying, Britons naked, mingled with armed Romans,
strew the field beneath. Among these, the last of the Bards who was
capable of attending warlike deeds is seen falling, outstretched among
the dead and the dying, singing to his harp in the pains of death.
Distant among the mountains are Druid Temples, similar to
Stonehenge. The Sun sets behind the mountains, bloody with the day of
The flush of health in flesh, exposed to the open air, nourished
by the spirits of forests and floods, in that ancient happy period which
history has recorded, cannot be like the sickly daubs of Titian or
Rubens. Where will the copier of nature, as it now is, find a civilized
man who has been accustomed to go naked? Imagination only can furnish us
with colouring appropriate, such as is found in the Frescoes of Raphael
and Michael Angelo: the disposition of forms always directs colouring in
works of true art. As to a modern Man stripped from his load of
clothing, he is like a dead corpse. Hence Rubens, Titian, Correggio, and
all of that class, are like leather and chalk; their men are like
leather and their women like chalk, for the disposition of their forms
will not admit of grand colouring; in Mr. B.’s Britons, the
blood is seen to circulate in their limbs; he defies competition in
‘A Spirit vaulting from a Cloud to turn and
wind a fiery Pegasus’—Shakspeare. The
Horse of Intellect is leaping from the Cliffs of Memory and
Reasoning; it is a barren Rock: it is also called the Barren
Waste of Locke and Newton.
This Picture was done many years ago, and was
one of the first Mr. B. ever did in Fresco; fortunately, or rather
providentially, he left it unblotted and unblurred, although molested
continually by blotting and blurring demons; but he was also compelled
to leave it unfinished for reasons that will be shown in the following.
The Goats, an experiment Picture.
The subject is taken from the Missionary Voyage,
and varied from the literal fact for the sake of picturesque scenery.
The savage girls had dressed themselves with vine-leaves, and some goats
on board the missionary ship stripped them off presently. This Picture
was painted at intervals, for experiment with the colours, and is
laboured to a superabundant blackness; it has however that about it
which may be worthy the attention of the Artist and Connoisseur for
reasons that follow.
The spiritual Preceptor, an experiment Picture.
This subject is taken from the Visions of
Emanuel Swedenborg (Universal Theology, No. 623). The Learned, who
strive to ascend into Heaven by means of learning, appear to Children
like dead horses, when repelled by the celestial spheres. The works of
this visionary are well worthy the attention of Painters and Poets; they
are foundations for grand things; the reason they have not been more
attended to is, because corporeal demons have gained a predominance; who
the leaders of these are, will be shown below. Unworthy Men, who gain
fame among Men, continue to govern mankind after death, and, in their
spiritual bodies, oppose the spirits
of those who worthily are famous; and, as
Swedenborg observes, by entering into disease and excrement, drunkenness
and concupiscence, they possess themselves of the bodies of mortal men,
and shut the doors of mind and of thought, by placing Learning above
Inspiration. O Artist! you may disbelieve all this, but it shall be at
your own peril.
Satan calling up his Legions, from Milton’s
Paradise Lost; a composition for a more perfect Picture,
afterward executed for a Lady of high rank. An experiment
This Picture was likewise painted at intervals,
for experiment on colours, without any oily vehicle; it may be worthy of
attention, not only on account of its composition, but of the great
Labour which has been bestowed on it, that is, three or four times as
much as would have finished a more perfect Picture. The labour has
destroyed the lineaments: it was with difficulty brought back again to a
certain effect, which it had at first, when all the lineaments were
These Pictures, among numerous others painted for experiment, were
the result of temptations and perturbations, labouring to destroy
Imaginative power, by means of that infernal machine, called Chiaro
Oscuro, in the hands of Venetian and Flemish Demons; whose enmity to the
Painter himself, and to all Artists who study in the Florentine and
Roman Schools, may be removed by an exhibition and exposure of their
vile tricks. They cause that everything in art shall become a Machine.
They cause that the execution shall be all blocked up with brown
shadows. They put the original Artist in fear and doubt of his own
original conception. The spirit of Titian was particularly active in
raising doubts concerning the possibility of executing without a model;
and, when once he had raised the doubt, it became easy for him to snatch
away the vision time after time; for when the Artist took his pencil, to
execute his ideas, his power of imagination weakened so much, and
darkened, that memory of nature and of Pictures of the various Schools
possessed his mind, instead of appropriate execution, resulting from the
inventions; like walking in another man’s style, or speaking
or looking in another man’s style and manner, unappropriate
and repugnant to your own individual character; tormenting the true
Artist, till he leaves the Florentine, and adopts the Venetian
practice, or does as Mr. B. has
done—has the courage to suffer poverty and disgrace, till he
Rubens is a most outrageous demon, and by infusing the remembrances
of his Pictures, and style of execution, hinders all power of individual
thought: so that the man who is possessed by this demon loses all
admiration of any other Artist but Rubens, and those who were his
imitators and journeymen. He causes to the Florentine and Roman Artist
fear to execute; and, though the original conception was all fire and
animation, he loads it with hellish brownness, and blocks up all its
gates of light, except one, and that one he closes with iron bars, till
the victim is obliged to give up the Florentine and Roman practice, and
adopt the Venetian and Flemish.
Correggio is a soft and effeminate and consequently a most cruel
demon, whose whole delight is to cause endless labour to whoever suffers
him to enter his mind. The story that is told in all Lives of the
Painters, about Correggio being poor and but badly paid for his
Pictures, is altogether false; he was a petty Prince, in Italy, and
employed numerous Journeymen in manufacturing (as Rubens and Titian did)
the Pictures that go under his name. The manual labour in these Pictures
of Correggio is immense, and was paid for originally at the immense
prices that those who keep manufactories of art always charge to their
employers, while they themselves pay their journeymen little enough.
But, though Correggio was not poor, he will make any true artist so, who
permits him to enter his mind, and take possession of his affections; he
infuses a love of soft and even tints without boundaries, and of endless
reflected lights, that confuse one another, and hinder all correct
drawing from appearing to be correct; for if one of Raphael’s
or Michael Angelo’s figures was to be traced, and
Correggio’s reflections and refractions to be added to it,
there would soon be an end of proportion and strength, and it would be
weak, and pappy, and lumbering, and thick-headed, like his own works;
but then it would have softness and evenness, by a
twelvemonth’s labour, where a month would with judgment have
finished it better and higher; and the poor wretch who executed it would
be the Correggio that the life-writers have written of—a
drudge and a miserable man, compelled to softness by poverty. I say
again, O Artist! you may disbelieve all this, but it shall be at your
Note. — These experiment Pictures have
been bruised and knocked about, without mercy, to try all
The Bramins.—A Drawing.
The subject is, Mr. Wilkin translating the
Geeta; an ideal design, suggested by the first publication of that part
of the Hindoo Scriptures translated by Mr. Wilkin. I understand that my
Costume is incorrect; but in this I plead the authority of the ancients,
who often deviated from the Habits, to preserve the Manners, as in the
instance of Laocoon, who, though a priest, is represented naked.
The Body of Abel found by Adam and Eve; Cain, who was
about to bury it, fleeing from the face of his
The Soldiers casting Lots for Christ’s
Jacob’s Ladder.—A Drawing.
The Angels hovering over the Body of Jesus in the
The above four drawings the Artist wishes were
in Fresco, on an enlarged scale, to ornament the altars of churches, and
to make England, like Italy, respected by respectable men of other
countries on account of Art. It is not the want of genius that can
hereafter be laid to our charge; the Artist who has done these Pictures
and Drawings will take care of that; let those who govern the Nation
take care of the other. The times require that every one should speak
out boldly; England expects that every man should do his duty, in Arts,
as well as in Arms or in the Senate.
This Design is taken from that most pathetic
passage in the Book of Ruth where Naomi, having taken leave of her
daughters-in-law, with intent to return to her own country, Ruth cannot
leave her, but says, ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and
where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy
God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried:
God do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and
The distinction that is made in modern times between a Painting
and a Drawing proceeds from ignorance of art. The merit of a Picture is
the same as the merit of a Drawing. The dauber daubs his Drawings; he
who draws his Drawings draws his Pictures. There is no difference
between Raphael’s Cartoons and his Frescoes, or Pictures,
except that the Frescoes, or Pictures, are more finished. When Mr. B.
formerly painted in oil colours, his Pictures were shown to certain
painters and connoisseurs, who said that they were very admirable
Drawings on canvas, but not Pictures; but they said the same of
Raphael’s Pictures. Mr. B. thought this the greatest of
compliments, though it was meant otherwise. If losing and obliterating
the outline constitutes a Picture, Mr. B. will never be so foolish as to
do one. Such art of losing the outlines is the art of Venice and
Flanders; it loses all character, and leaves what some people call
expression: but this is a false notion of expression; expression cannot
exist without character as its stamina; and neither character nor
expression can exist without firm and determinate outline. Fresco
Painting is susceptible of higher finishing than Drawing on Paper, or
than any other method of Painting. But he must have a strange
organization of sight who does not prefer a Drawing on Paper to a
Daubing in Oil by the same master, supposing both to be done with equal
The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this:
That the more distinct, sharp, and wiry the bounding line, the more
perfect the work of art; and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the
evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism, and bungling. Great inventors,
in all ages, knew this: Protogenes and Apelles knew each other by this
line. Raphael and Michael Angelo, and Albert Dürer, are known
by this and this alone. The want of this determinate and bounding form
evidences the idea of want in the artist’s mind,
and the pretence of the plagiary in all its
branches. How do we distinguish the oak from the beech, the horse from
the ox, but by the bounding outline? How do we distinguish one face or
countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its infinite
inflexions and movements? What is it that builds a house and plants a
garden, but the definite and determinate? What is it that distinguishes
honesty from knavery, but the hard and wiry line of rectitude and
certainty in the actions and intentions? Leave out this line and you
leave out life itself; all is chaos again, and the line of the Almighty
must be drawn out upon it before man or beast can exist. Talk no more
then of Correggio or Rembrandt, or any other of those plagiaries of
Venice or Flanders. They were but the lame imitators of lines drawn by
their predecessors, and their works prove themselves contemptible
disarranged imitations, and blundering misapplied copies.
The Penance of Jane Shore in Saint Paul’s
This Drawing was done above Thirty Years ago,
and proves to the Author, and he thinks will prove to any discerning
eye, that the productions of our youth and of our maturer age are equal
in all essential points. If a man is master of his profession, he cannot
be ignorant that he is so; and, if he is not employed by those who
pretend to encourage art, he will employ himself, and laugh in secret at
the pretences of the ignorant, while he has every night dropped into his
shoe—as soon as he puts it off, and puts out the candle, and
gets into bed—a reward for the labours of the day, such as
the world cannot give; and patience and time await to give him all that
the world can give.
Intended to accompany Blake’s Engraving of the
The originality of this production makes it
necessary to say a few words.
In this plate Mr. Blake has resumed the style with which he set out in
life, of which Heath and Stothard were the awkward imitators at that time.
It is the style of Albert Dürer and the old engravers, which
cannot be imitated by any one who does not understand drawing, and which,
according to Heath, and Stothard, Flaxman, and even Romney, spoils an
engraver; for each of these men has repeatedly asserted this absurdity to
me, in condemnation of my work, and approbation of Heath’s lame
imitation; Stothard being such a fool as to suppose that his blundering
blurs can be made out and delineated by any engraver who knows how to cut
dots and lozenges, equally well with those little prints which I engraved
after him four-and-twenty years ago, and by which he got his reputation as a
If men of weak capacities have alone the power of execution in art, Mr.
Blake has now put to the test. If to invent and to draw well hinders the
executive power in art, and his strokes are still to be condemned because
they are unlike those of artists who are unacquainted with drawing, is now
to he decided by the public. Mr. Blake’s inventive powers, and
his scientific knowledge of drawing, are on all hands
acknowledged; it only remains to be certified
whether physiognomic strength and power are to give place to imbecility. In
a work of art it is not fine tints that are required, but fine forms; fine
tints without fine forms are always the subterfuge of the blockhead.
I account it a public duty respectfully to address myself to the
Chalcographic Society, and to express to them my opinion, (the result of the
expert practice and experience of many years), that engraving as an art is
lost to England, owing to an artfully propagated opinion that drawing spoils
an engraver. I request the Society to inspect my print, of which drawing is
the foundation, and indeed the superstructure: it is drawing on copper, as
painting ought to be drawing on canvas or any other surface, and nothing
else. I request likewise that the Society will compare the prints of
Bartolozzi, Woollett, Strange, &c, with the old English portraits;
that is, compare the modern art with the art as it existed previous to the
entrance of Vandyck and Rubens into the country, since which event engraving
is lost; and I am sure the result of the comparison will be that the Society
must be of my opinion, that engraving, by losing drawing, has lost all
character and all expression, without which the art is lost.
There is not, because there cannot be, any difference of effect in the
pictures of Rubens and Rembrandt: when you have seen one of their pictures,
you have seen all. It is not so with Raphael, Giulio Romano, Albert
Dürer, Michael Angelo; every picture of theirs has a different
and appropriate effect. What man of sense will lay out his money upon the
life’s labours of imbecility and imbecility’s
journeymen, or think to educate a fool how to build a universe with farthing
balls? The contemptible idiots who have been called great men of late years
ought to rouse the public indignation of men of sense in all professions.
Yet I do not shrink from the comparison in either relief or strength of
colour with either Rembrandt or Rubens; on the contrary, I
court the comparison, and fear not the
result,—but not in a dark corner. Their effects are in every
picture the same; mine are in every picture different. That vulgar epigram
in art, Rembrandt’s
entirely put an end to all genuine and appropriate effect: all, both morning
and night, is now a dark cavern; it is the fashion.
I hope my countrymen will excuse me if I tell them a wholesome truth.
Most Englishmen, when they look at pictures, immediately set about searching
for points of light, and clap the picture into a dark corner. This, when
done by grand works, is like looking for epigrams in Homer. A point of light
is a witticism: many are destructive of all art; one is an epigram only, and
no good work can have them. Raphael, Michael Angelo, Albert
Dürer, Giulio Romano, are accounted ignorant of that epigrammatic
wit in art, because they avoid it as a destructive machine, as it is.
Mr. Blake repeats that there is not one character or expression in
this print which could be produced with the execution of Titian, Rubens,
Correggio, Rembrandt, or any of that class. Character and expression can
only be expressed by those who feel them. Even Hogarth’s
execution cannot be copied or improved. Gentlemen of fortune, who give great
prices for pictures, should consider the following: When you view a
collection of pictures, painted since Venetian art was the fashion, or go
into a modern exhibition, with a very few exceptions every picture has the
same effect—a piece of machinery of points of light to be put
into a dark hole.
Ruben’s ‘Luxembourg Gallery’ is
confessed on all hands to be the work of a blockhead; it bears this evidence
in its face. How can its execution be any other than the work of a
blockhead? Bloated gods, Mercury, Juno, Venus, and the rattletraps of
mythology, and the lumber of an awkward French palace, are thrown together
around clumsy and rickety princes and princesses, higgledy-piggledy. On the
contrary, Giulio Romano’s ‘Palace of T. at
Mantua’ is allowed on all hands to be the production of a man of
most profound sense and genius; and yet his
execution is pronounced by English connoisseurs (and Reynolds their doll) to
be unfit for the study of the painter. Can I speak with too great contempt
of such contemptible fellows? If all the princes in Europe, like Louis XIV.
and Charles I., were to patronize such blockheads, I, William Blake, a
mental prince, would decollate and hang their souls as guilty of mental
high-treason. He who could represent Christ uniformly like a drayman must
have queer conceptions— consequently his execution must have been
as queer: and those must be queer fellows who give great sums for such
nonsense, and think it fine art. Who that has eyes cannot see that Rubens
and Correggio must have been very weak and vulgar fellows? And we are to
imitate their execution! This is like what Sir Francis Bacon says: that a
healthy child should he taught and compelled to walk like a cripple, while
the cripple must be taught to walk like healthy people. Oh rare wisdom!
The wretched state of the arts in this country and in Europe,
originating in the wretched state of political science (which is the science
of sciences), demands a firm and determinate conduct on the part of artists,
to resist the contemptible counter-arts, established by such contemptible
politicians as Louis XIV., and originally set on foot by Venetian
picture-traders, music-traders, and rhyme-traders, to the destruction of all
true art, as it is this day. To recover art has been the business of my life
to the Florentine original, and if possible, to go beyond that original:
this I thought the only pursuit worthy of a man. To imitate I abhor: I
obstinately adhere to the true style of art, such as Michael Angelo,
Raphael, Giulio Romano, Albert Dürer, left it. I demand,
therefore, of the amateurs of art the encouragement which is my due; if they
continue to refuse, theirs is the loss, not mine, and theirs is the contempt
of posterity. I have enough in the approbation of fellow-labourers: this is
my glory and exceeding great reward. I go on and nothing can hinder my
While the works of Pope and Dryden are looked upon as the same art
with those of Shakespeare and Milton, while the works of Strange and
Woollett are looked upon as the same art with those of Raphael and Albert
Dürer, there can be no art in a nation but such as is subservient
to the interest of the monopolising trader. Englishmen! rouse yourselves
from the fatal slumber into which booksellers and trading dealers have
thrown you, under the artfully propagated pretence that a translation or a
copy of any kind can be as honourable to a nation as an original, belieing
the English character in that well-known saying, Englishmen improve what
others invent. This even Hogarth’s works prove a detestable
falsehood. No man can improve an original invention, nor can an original
invention exist without execution organised, delineated, and articulated
either by God or man: I do not mean smoothed up and niggled and
poco-pen’d, and all the beauties paled out, blurred, and blotted;
but drawn with a firm and decided hand at once, like Michael Angelo,
Shakespeare and Milton. I have heard many people say: ‘Give me
the ideas—it is no matter what words you put them
into;’ and others say: ‘Give me the design, it is no
matter for the execution.’ These people knew enough of artifice,
but nothing of art. Ideas cannot be given but in their minutely appropriate
words, nor can a design be made without its minutely appropriate execution.
The unorganized blots and blurs of Rubens and Titian are not art, nor can
their method ever express ideas or imaginations, any more than
Pope’s metaphysical jargon of rhyming. Unappropriate execution is
the most nauseous of all affectation and foppery. He who copies does not
execute—he only imitates what is already executed. Execution is
only the result of invention.
I do not condemn Rubens, Rembrandt, or Titian, because they did not
understand drawing, but because they did not understand colouring; how long
shall I be forced to beat this into men’s ears? I do not condemn
Strange or Woollett because they did not understand drawing, but because
did not understand engraving. I do not condemn
Pope or Dryden because they did not understand imagination, but because they
did not understand verse. Their colouring, graving, and verse, can never be
applied to art: that is not either colouring, graving, or verse, which is
unappropriate to the subject. He who makes a design must know the effect and
colouring proper to be put to that design, and will never take that of
Rubens, Rembrandt, or Titian, to turn that which is soul and life into a
mill or machine.
They say, there is no straight line in nature. This is a lie, like
all that they say, for there is every line in nature. But I will tell them
what there is not in nature. An even tint is not in nature—it
produces heaviness. Nature’s shadows are ever varying, and a
ruled sky that is quite even never can produce a natural sky. The same with
every object in a picture—its spots are its beauties. Now,
gentlemen critics, how do you like this? You may rage; but what I say I will
prove by such practice (and have already done so) that you will rage to your
own destruction. Woollett I knew very intimately by his intimacy with
Basire, and I knew him to be one of the most ignorant fellows that I ever
knew. A machine is not a man nor a work of art; it is destructive of
humanity and of art. Woollett, I know, did not know how to grind his graver;
I know this. He has often proved his ignorance before me at
Basire’s, by laughing at Basire’s knife-tools, and
ridiculing the forms of Basire’s other gravers, till Basire was
quite dashed and out of conceit with what he himself knew. But his impudence
had a contrary effect on me.
A certain portrait-painter said to me in a boasting way:
‘Since I have practised painting, I have lost all idea of
drawing.’ Such a man must know that I looked upon him with
contempt. He did not care for this any more than West did, who hesitated and
equivocated with me upon the same subject, at which time he asserted that
Woollett’s prints were superior to Basire’s, because
they had more labour and
care. Now this is contrary to the truth. Woollett
did not know how to put so much labour into a head or a foot as Basire did;
he did not know how to draw the leaf of a tree. All his study was clean
strokes and mossy tints; how then should he be able to make use of either
labour or care, unless the labour and care of imbecility? The
life’s labour of mental weakness scarcely equals one hour of the
labour of ordinary capacity, like the full gallop of the gouty man to the
ordinary walk of youth and health. I allow that there is such a thing as
high-finished ignorance, as there may be a fool or a knave in an embroidered
coat; but I say that the embroidery of the ignorant finisher is not like a
coat made by another, but is an emanation from ignorance itself, and its
finishing is like its master—the life’s labour of five
hundred idiots, for he never does the work himself.
What is called the English style of engraving, such as it proceeded
from the toilets of Woollett and Strange (for their’s were
Fribble’s toilets) can never produce character and expression. I
knew the men intimately from their intimacy with Basire, my master, and knew
them both to be heavy lumps of cunning and ignorance, as their works show to
all the Continent, who laugh at the contemptible pretences of Englishmen to
improve art before they even know the first beginnings of art. I hope this
print will redeem my country from this coxcomb situation, and show that it
Englishmen, and not all, who are thus
ridiculous in their pretences. Advertisements in newspapers are no proofs of
popular approbation, but often the contrary. A man who pretends to improve
fine art does not know what fine art is. Ye English engravers must come down
from your high flights; ye must condescend to study Marc Antonio and Albert
Dürer; ye must begin before you attempt to finish or improve: and
when you have begun, you will know better than to think of improving what
cannot be improved. It is very true what you have said for these thirty-two
years: I am mad, or else you are so. Both of us cannot be in our
right senses. Posterity will judge by our works.
Woollett’s and Strange’s works are like those of
Titian and Correggio, the life’s labour of ignorant journeymen,
suited to the purposes of commerce, no doubt, for commerce cannot endure
individual merit; its insatiable maw must be fed by what all can do equally
well; at least it is so in England, as I have found to my cost these forty
years. Commerce is so far from being beneficial to arts or to empires that
it is destructive of both, as all their history shows, for the above reason
of individual merit being its great hatred. Empires flourish till they
become commercial, and then they are scattered abroad to the four winds.
Woollett’s best works were etched by Jack Browne; Woollett
etched very ill himself.
The Cottagers, and
Jocund Peasants, the
Views in Kew Garden,
, and, in short, all that are called
Woollett’s, were etched by Jack Browne; and in
Woollett’s works the etching is all, though even in these a
single leaf of a tree is never correct. Strange’s prints were,
when I knew him, all done by Aliamet and his French journeymen, whose names
I forget. I also knew something of John Cooke, who engraved after Hogarth.
Cooke wished to give Hogarth what he could take from Raphael, that is,
outline, and mass, and colour; but he could not. Such prints as Woollett and
Strange produce will do for those who choose to purchase the
life’s labour of ignorance and imbecility in preference to the
inspired monuments of genius and inspiration.
In this manner the English public have been imposed upon for many
years, under the impression that engraving and painting are somewhat else
besides drawing. Painting is drawing on canvas, and engraving is drawing on
copper, and nothing else; and he who pretends to be either painter or
engraver without being a master of drawing is an impostor. We may be clever
as pugilists, but as artists, we are, and have long been, the contempt of
the continent. Gravelot once said to my master Basire: ‘De
English may be
very clever in deir own opinions, but dey do not
draw de draw.’
Whoever looks at any of the great and expensive works of engraving
that have been published by English traders must feel a loathing and
disgust; and accordingly most Englishmen have a contempt for art, which is
the greatest curse that can fall upon a nation.
The modern chalcographic connoisseurs and amateurs admire only the
work of the journeyman picking out of whites and blacks in what are called
tints. They despise drawing, which despises them in return. They see only
whether everything is toned down but one spot of light. Mr. Blake submits to
a more severe tribunal: he invites the admirers of old English portraits to
look at his print.
An example of these contrary arts is given us in the characters of
Milton and Dryden, as they are written in a poem signed with the name of Nat
Lee, which perhaps he never wrote and perhaps he wrote in a paroxysm of
insanity; in which it is said that Milton’s poem is a rough
unfinished piece, and that Dryden has finished it. Now let
Dryden’s Fall and Milton’s Paradise be read, and I
will assert that everybody of understanding must cry out shame on such
niggling and poco-pen as Dryden has degraded Milton with. But at the same
time I will allow that stupidity will prefer Dryden, because it is in rhyme
and monotonous sing-song, sing-song from beginning to end. Such are
Bartolozzi, Woollett, and Strange.
Men think that they can copy nature as correctly as I copy
imagination. This they will find impossible: and all the copies, or
pretended copies, of nature, from Rembrandt to Reynolds, prove that nature
becomes to its victim nothing but blots and blurs. Why are copies of nature
incorrect, while copies of imagination are correct? This is manifest to all.
The English artist may be assured that he is doing an injury and injustice
to his country while he studies and imitates the effects of nature. England
will never rival Italy
while we servilely copy what the wise Italians,
Raphael and Michael Angelo, scorned, nay abhorred, as Vasari tells us. What
kind of intellect must he have who sees only the colours of things, and not
the forms of things? No man of sense can think that an imitation of the
objects of nature is the art of painting, or that such imitation (which any
one may easily perform) is worthy of notice—much less that such
an art should be the glory and pride of a nation. The Italians laugh at the
English connoisseurs, who are (most of them) such silly fellows as to
A man sets himself down with colours, and with all the articles of
painting; he puts a model before him, and he copies that so neat as to make
it a deception. Now, let any man of sense ask himself one question: Is this
art? Can it be worthy of admiration to anybody of understanding? Who could
not do this? What man, who has eyes and an ordinary share of patience,
cannot do this neatly? Is this art, or is it glorious to a nation to produce
such contemptible copies? Countrymen, countrymen, do not suffer yourselves
to be disgraced!
No man of sense ever supposes that copying from nature is the art of
painting; if the art is no more than this, it is no better than any other
manual labour: anybody may do it, and the fool often will do it best, as it
is a work of no mind. A jockey, that is anything of a jockey, will never buy
a horse by the colour; and a man who has got any brains will never buy a
picture by the colour.
When I tell any truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who
do not know it, but for the sake of defending those who do.
It is nonsense for noblemen and gentlemen to offer premiums for the
encouragement of art, when such pictures as these can be done without
premiums. Let them encourage what exists already, and not endeavour to
counteract by tricks. Let it no more be said that empires encourage arts,
for it is arts that encourage empires. Arts and artists are
spiritual, and laugh at mortal contingencies. Let
us teach Buonaparte, and whomsoever else it may concern, that it is not arts
that follow and attend upon empire, but empire that attends upon and follows
the arts. It is in their power to hinder instruction but not to instruct;
just as it is in their power to murder a man, but not to make a man.
I do not pretend to paint better than Raphael or Michael Angelo, or
Giulio Romano, or Albert Dürer; but I do pretend to paint finer
than Rubens, or Rembrandt, or Correggio, or Titian. I do not pretend to
engrave finer than Albert Dürer; but I do pretend to engrave
finer than Strange, Woollett, Hall, or Bartolozzi; and all because I
understand drawing, which they understood not. Englishmen have been so used
to journeymen’s undecided bungling, that they cannot bear the
firmness of a master’s touch. Every line is the line of beauty;
it is only fumble and bungle which cannot draw a line. This only is
ugliness. That is not a line which doubts and hesitates in the midst of its
I know my execution is not like anybody else’s. I do not
intend it should be so. None but blockheads copy one another. My conception
and invention are on all hands allowed to be superior; my execution will be
found so too. To what is it that gentlemen of the first rank both in genius
and fortune have subscribed their names? To my inventions. The executive
part they never disputed.
The painters of England are unemployed in public works, while the
sculptors have continual and superabundant employment. Our churches and our
abbeys are treasures of their producing for ages back, while painting is
excluded. Painting, the principal art, has no place among our almost only
public works. Yet it is more adapted to solemn ornament than marble can be,
as it is capable of being placed in any height, and, indeed, would make a
noble finish, placed above the great public monuments in Westminster, St.
Paul’s and other cathedrals. To the Society for the Encouragement
of Art I address myself with respectful duty, requesting their
consideration of my plan as a great public means
of advancing fine art in Protestant communities. Monuments to the dead
painters by historical and poetical artists, like Barry and Mortimer (I
forbear to name living artists, though equally worthy)—I say,
monuments to painters—must make England what Italy is, an envied
storehouse of intellectual riches.
It has been said of late years, the English public have no taste for
painting. This is a falsehood. The English are as good judges of painting as
of poetry, and they prove it in their contempt for great collections of all
the rubbish of the Continent, brought here by ignorant picture-dealers. An
Englishman may well say ‘I am no judge of painting,’
when he is shown these smears and daubs, at an immense price, and told that
such is the art of painting. I say the English public are true encouragers
of real art, while they discourage and look with contempt on false art.
Resentment for personal injuries has had some share in this public
address, but love for my art, and zeal for my country, a much greater.
I do not know whether Homer is a liar and that there is no such thing
as generous contention. I know that all those with whom I have contended in
art have striven, not to excel, but to starve me out by calumny and the arts
of trading competition. The manner in which my character has been blasted
these thirty years both as an artist and a man may be seen particularly in a
Sunday paper called
, published in Beaufort’s Buildings (we all know that
editors of newspapers trouble their heads very little about art and science,
and that they are always paid for what they put in upon these ungracious
subjects): and the manner in which I have rooted out the nest of villains
will be seen in a poem concerning my three years’ herculean
labours at Felpham which I shall soon publish. Secret calumny and open
professions of friendship are common enough all the world over, but have
never been so good an occasion of poetic imagery. When a base man means to
be your enemy, he always begins
with being your friend. Flaxman cannot deny that
one of the very first monuments he did I gratuitously designed for him; at
the same time he was blasting my character as an artist to Macklin, my
employer, as Macklin told me at the time, and posterity will know. Many
people are so foolish as to think they can wound Mr. Fuseli over my
shoulder: they will find themselves mistaken; they could not wound even Mr.
In a commercial nation, impostors are abroad in all professions; these
are the greatest enemies of genius. In the art of painting these impostors
sedulously propagate an opinion that great inventors cannot execute. This
opinion is as destructive of the true artist as it is false by all
experience. Even Hogarth cannot be either copied or improved. Can Anglus
never discern perfection but in a journeyman labourer?
P.S.—I do not believe that this absurd opinion ever was
set on foot till, in my outset into life, it was artfully published, both in
whispers and in print, by certain persons whose robberies from me made it
necessary to them that I should be hid in a corner. It never was supposed
that a copy could be better than an original, or near so good, till, a few
years ago, it became the interest of certain knaves. The lavish praise I
have received from all quarters for invention and drawing has generally been
accompanied by this: ‘He can conceive, but he cannot
execute.’ This absurd assertion has done me, and may still do me,
the greatest mischief. I call for public protection against these villains.
I am, like others, just equal in invention and in execution, as my works
show. I, in my own defence, challenge a competition with the finest
engravings, and defy the most critical judge to make the comparison
honestly: asserting, in my own defence, that this print is the finest that
has been done, or is likely to be done, in England, where drawing, the
foundation, is condemned, and absurd nonsense about dots and lozenges and
clean strokes made to occupy the attention to the neglect
of all real art. I defy any man to cut cleaner
strokes than I do, or rougher, when I please; and assert, that he who thinks
he can engrave or paint either, without being a master of drawing, is a
fool. Painting is drawing on canvas, and engraving is drawing on copper, and
nothing else. Drawing is execution and nothing else; and he who draws best
must be the best artist. And to this I subscribe my name as a public duty.
[In an early part of the same book from which has been gathered the
Public Address, occur three memoranda
having reference to the methods by which Blake engraved some of his
These receipts are written immediately under the two very curious
entries—‘Tuesday, Jan. 20, 1807, Between two and
seven in the evening. Despair’ And—’I
say I shan’t live five years; and if I live one, it will be a
wonder. June 1793.’ The last-quoted entry is in pencil, and
pretty evidently made
before the subjoined.]
To engrave on pewter: Let there be first a drawing made correctly
with black-lead pencil; let nothing be to seek. Then rub it off on
the plate, covered with white wax; or perhaps pass it through press.
This will produce certain and determined forms on the plate, and
time will not be wasted in seeking them afterwards.
To wood-cut on pewter: Lay a ground on the plate, and smoke it as for
etching. Then trace your outlines, and, beginning with the spots of
light on each object, with an oval-pointed needle, scrape off the
ground, as a direction for your graver. Then proceed to graving,
with the ground on the plate; being as careful as possible not to
hurt the ground, because it, being black, will show perfectly what
To wood-cut on copper: Lay a ground as for etching; trace,
&c., and, instead of etching the blacks, etch the whites,
and bite it in.’
Every poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity,
but why Homer’s is peculiarly so I cannot tell: he has told
the story of Bellerophon, and omitted the Judgment of Paris, which is
not only a part, but a principal part, of Homer’s subject.
But when a work has unity, it is as much so in a part as in the whole.
The torso is as much a unity as the Laocoon. As unity is the cloak of
folly, so goodness is the cloak of knavery. Those who will have unity
exclusively in Homer come out with a moral like a sting in the tail.
Aristotle says characters are either good or bad: now, goodness or
badness has nothing to do with character. An apple-tree, a pear-tree, a
horse, a lion, are characters; but a good apple-tree or a bad is an
apple-tree still. A horse is not more a lion for being a bad
horse—that is its character: its goodness or badness is
It is the same with the moral of a whole poem as with the moral
goodness of its parts. Unity and morality are secondary considerations,
and belong to Philosophy, and not to Poetry—to exception, and
not to rule—to accident, and not to substance. The ancients
called it eating of the Tree of Good and Evil.
The Classics it is, the Classics, and not Goths or monks, that
desolate Europe with wars.
Sacred truth has pronounced that Greece and
Rome, as Babylon and Egypt, so far from being parents of Arts and
Sciences, as they pretend, were destroyers of all Art. Homer, Virgil,
and Ovid, confirm this, and make us reverence the Word of God, the only
light of Antiquity that remains unperverted by war. Virgil, in the
Eneid, Book VI. line 848, says: ‘Let others study Art. Rome has
somewhat better to do—namely, War and Dominion.’
Rome and Greece swept art into their maw, and destroyed it. A
warlike State never can produce art. It will rob and plunder, and
accumulate into one place, and translate, and copy, and buy and sell,
and criticise, but not make. Grecian is mathematic form. Mathematic form
is eternal in the reasoning memory. Living form is eternal existence.
Gothic is living form.
- To Lord Byron in the Wilderness.—What dost thou,
- Can a Poet doubt the Visions of Jehovah? Nature has no Outline;
- But Imagination has. Nature has no Time; but Imagination has.
- Nature has no Supernatural, and dissolves; Imagination is
the dead body of
Abel which lies near a
kneels by her. Jehovah
- Adam.—It is in vain: I will no
hear thee more, thou Spiritual Voice.
- Is this Death?
- Adam.—It is in vain; I will not
10Henceforth. Is this thy Promise that the Woman's Seed
- Should bruise the Serpent's Head? Is this the Serpent? Ah!
- Seven times, O Eve, thou hast fainted over the Dead. Ah! Ah!
- Eve.—Is this the promise of
Jehovah? Oh it is all a vain delusion,
- This death and this Life and this Jehovah.
- Jehovah.—Woman, lift thine eyes.
- (A Voice
- Voice.—O Earth, cover not thou
Enter the Ghost
- Eve.—Thou visionary Phantasm,
thou art not the real Abel.
- Abel.—Among the Elohim a Human
Victim I wander. I am their House,
- Prince of the Air, and our dimensions compass Zenith and
20Vain is the Covenant, O Jehovah: I am the Accuser and Avenger
- Of Blood; O Earth, cover not thou the blood of Abel.
- Jehovah.—What vengeance dost
- Abel.—Life for Life! Life for
- Jehovah.—He who shall take
Cain's life must also die, O Abel;
- And who is he? Adam, wilt thou, or Eve, thou, do this?
- Adam.—It is all a vain delusion
of the all-creative Imagination.
- Eve, come away, and let us not believe these vain delusions.
- Abel is dead, and Cain slew him; We shall also die a death,
- And then—what then? be as poor as Abel, a Thought;
30This? Oh what shall I call thee, Form Divine, Father of
- That appearest to my Spiritual Vision? Eve, seest thou also?
- Eve—I see him plainly with my
mind's eye: I see also Abel living!
- Tho’ terribly afflicted, as we also are: yet
Jehovah sees him
- Alive and not dead: were it not better to believe Vision
- With all our might and strength, tho’ we are fallen
- Adam.—Eve, thou hast spoken
truly; let us kneel before his feet.
They kneel before Jehovah.)
- Abel.—Are these the sacrifices
of Eternity, O Jehovah? a broken spirit
- And a contrite heart? O, I cannot forgive; the Accuser hath
- Entered into me as into his house, and I loathe thy
40As thou hast said so is it come to pass: My desire is unto
- And he doth rule over me: therefore my soul in fumes of blood
- Cries for vengeance: Sacrifice on Sacrifice, Blood on Blood.
- Jehovah.—Lo, I have given you a
Lamb for an atonement instead
- Of the transgressor, or no Flesh or Spirit could ever live.
- Abel.—Compelled I cry, O Earth,
cover not the blood of Abel.
into the grave, from which arises Satan, armed in glittering
scales, with a crown and a spear.
- Satan.—I will have human blood,
and not the blood of bulls or goats,
- And no atonement, O Jehovah; the Elohim live on sacrifice
- Of men: hence I am god of men; thou human, O Jehovah.
- By the rock and oak of the Druid, creeping mistletoe and
50Cain's city built with human blood, not blood of bulls and
- Thou shalt thyself be sacrificed to me thy God on Calvary.
- Jehovah.—Such is my will (
thunders) that thou thyself go to Eternal Death.
- In self-annihalation, even till Satan self-subdued put off
- Into the bottomless abyss whose torment arises for ever and
On each side a Chorus of Angels
entering sing the following.
- The Elohim of the Heathen swore vengeance for Sin! Then thou
- Forth, O Elohim Jehovah, in the midst of the darkness of the
oath all clothed
- In thy covenant of the forgiveness of sins. Death, O Holy! is
- The Elohim saw their oath eternal fire; they rolled apart
trembling over the
- Mercy-Seat, each in his station fixed in the firmament, by
Peace, Brotherhood, and Love
The curtain falls.)
- (1822. W. Blake's original stereotype was
‘On the skirt of a figure, rapid and
“vehemently sweeping,” engraved underneath
(recalling that vision of Dion, made memorable by one of
Wordsworth's noble poems) are inscribed these
words:—“The voice of Abel's Blood.”
The fierce and strenuous flight of this figure is as the motion of
one whose feet are swift to shed blood, and the dim face is full of
thunder and sorrowful lust after revenge. The decorations are
slight, but not ineffective; wrought merely in black and white. This
small prose lyric has a value beyond the value of its occasional
beauty and force of form; it is a brief, comprehensible expression
of Blake's faith seen from its two leading sides; belief in vision
and belief in mercy.’
A Critical Essay on William Blake,
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
, pp. 295-296, where
The Ghost of Abel was first printed.)
The Last Judgment is not fable, or allegory, but
vision. Fable, or allegory, is a totally distinct and inferior kind of
poetry. Vision, or imagination, is a representation of what actually exists,
really and unchangeably. Fable, or allegory, is formed by the daughters of
Memory. Imagination is surrounded by the daughters of inspiration, who, in
the aggregate, are called Jerusalem. Fable is allegory, but what critics
is vision itself. The Hebrew Bible and the
Gospel of Jesus are not allegory, but eternal vision, or imagination, of all
that exists. Note here that fable, or allegory, is seldom without some
is full of it; the Greek poets the same. But allegory and vision
ought to be known as two distinct things, and so called for the sake of
eternal life. The [ancients produce fable] when they assert that Jupiter
usurped the throne of his father, Saturn, and brought on an iron age, and
begot on Mnemosyne, or memory, the great Muses, which are not inspiration,
as the Bible is. Reality was forgot, and the varieties of time and space
only remembered, and called reality. The Greeks represent Chronos, or Time,
as a very aged man. This is fable, but the real vision of Time is an eternal
youth. I have, however, somewhat accommodated my figure of Time to the
common opinion; as I myself am also infected with it, and my vision is also
infected, and I see Time aged—alas! too much so. Allegories are
things that relate to moral virtues.
Moral virtues do not exist: they are allegories
and dissimulations. But Time and Space are real beings, a male and a female;
Time is a man, Space is a woman, and her masculine portion is Death. Such is
the mighty difference between allegoric fable and spiritual mystery. Let it
here be noted that the Greek fables originated in spiritual mystery and real
vision, which are lost and clouded in fable and allegory; while the Hebrew
Bible and the Greek Gospel are genuine, preserved by the
Saviour’s mercy. The nature of my work is visionary, or
imaginative; it is an endeavour to restore what the ancients called the
Plato has made Socrates say that poets and prophets do not know or
understand what they write or utter. This is a most pernicious falsehood. If
they do not, pray is an inferior kind to be called
‘knowing?’ Plato confutes himself.
The Last Judgment is one of these stupendous visions. I have
represented it as I saw it. To different people it appears differently, as
everything else does.
In eternity one thing never changes into another thing: each identity
is eternal. Consequently, Apuleius’s Golden Ass, and
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and others of the like kind, are fable; yet
they contain vision in a sublime degree, being derived from real vision in
more ancient writings. Lot’s wife being changed into a pillar of
salt alludes to the mortal body being rendered a permanent statue, but not
changed or transformed into another identity, while it retains its own
individuality. A man can never become ass nor horse; some are born with
shapes of men who are both; but eternal identity is one thing, and corporeal
vegetation is another thing. Changing water into wine by Jesus, and into
blood by Moses, relates to vegetable nature also.
The nature of visionary fancy, or imagination, is very little known,
and the eternal nature and permanence of its ever-existent images are
considered as less permanent than the things of vegetable and generative
nature. Yet the oak dies as well as the lettuce; but its eternal image or
never dies, but renews by its seed. Just so the
imaginative image returns by the seed of contemplative thought. The writings
of the prophets illustrate these conceptions of the visionary fancy by their
various sublime and divine images as seen in the worlds of vision.
The world of imagination is the world of eternity. It is the divine
bosom into which we shall all go after the death of the vegetated body. This
world of imagination is infinite and eternal, whereas the world of
generation, or vegetation, is finite and temporal. There exist in that
eternal world the permanent realities of every thing which we see reflected
in this vegetable glass of nature.
All things are comprehended in these eternal forms in the divine body
of the Saviour, the true vine of eternity . . . who appeared to me as coming
to judgment among His saints, and throwing off the temporal, that the
eternal might be established. Around Him were seen the images of existences
according to a certain order, suited to my imaginative eye, as
Jesus seated between the two pillars, Joachin and Boaz, with the word
divine of revelation on His knee, and on each side the four-and-twenty
elders sitting in judgment; the heavens opening around Him by unfolding the
clouds around His throne. The old heavens and the old earth are passing
away, and the new heavens and the new earth descending: a sea of fire issues
from before the throne. Adam and Eve appear first before the judgment-seat,
in humiliation; Abel surrounded by innocents; and Cain, with the flint in
his hand with which he slew his brother, falling with the head downwards.
From the cloud on which Eve stands Satan is seen falling headlong, wound
round by the tail of the serpent, whose bulk, nailed to the cross round
which he wreathes, is falling into the abyss. Sin is also represented as a
female bound in one of the serpent’s folds, surrounded by her
fiends. Death is chained to the cross, and Time falls together with Death,
dragged down by a demon crowned with laurel. Another
demon, with a key, has the charge of Sin, and is
dragging her down by the hair. Beside them a figure is seen, scaled with
iron scales from head to feet, precipitating himself into the abyss with the
sword and balances: he is Og, king of Bashan.
On the right, beneath the cloud on which Abel kneels, is Abraham, with
Sarah and Isaac, also with Hagar and Ishmael on the left. Abel kneels on a
bloody cloud, descriptive of those Churches before the Flood, that they were
filled with blood and fire and vapour of smoke. Even till
Abraham’s time the vapour and heat were not extinguished. These
states exist now. Man passes on, but states remain for ever: he passes
through them like a traveller, who may as well suppose that the places he
has passed through exist no more, as a man may suppose that the states he
has passed through exist no more: everything is eternal.
Beneath Ishmael is Mahomed: and beneath the falling figure of Cain is
Moses, casting his tables of stone into the deeps. It ought to be understood
that the persons, Moses and Abraham, are not here meant, but the states
signified by those names; the individuals being representatives, or visions,
of those states, as they were revealed to mortal man in the series of divine
revelations, as they are written in the Bible. These various states I have
seen in my imagination. When distant, they appear as one man; but, as you
approach, they appear multitudes of nations. Abraham hovers above his
posterity, which appear as multitudes of children ascending from the earth,
surrounded by stars, as it was said: ‘As the stars of heaven for
multitude.’ Jacob and his twelve sons hover beneath the feet of
Abraham, and receive their children from the earth. I have seen, when at a
distance, multitudes of men in harmony appear like a single infant,
sometimes in the arms of a female. This represented the Church.
But to proceed with the description of those on the left hand. Beneath
the cloud on which Moses kneels are two figures, a male and a female,
chained together by the feet.
They represent those who perished by the Flood.
Beneath them a multitude of their associates are seen falling headlong. By
the side of the them is a mighty fiend with a book in his hand, which is
shut: he represents the person named in Isaiah xxii. c. and 20 v., Eliakim,
the son of Hilkiah. He drags Satan down headlong. He is crowned with oak. By
the side of the scaled figure, representing Og, king of Bashan, is a figure
with a basket, emptying out the varieties of riches and wordly honours. He
is Araunah, the Jebusite, master of the threshing-floor. Above him are two
figures elevated on a cloud, representing the pharisees, who plead their own
righteosness before the throne: they are weighed down by two fiends. Beneath
the man with the basket are three fiery fiends, with grey beard, and
scourges of fire: they represent cruel laws. They scourge a group of figures
down into the deeps. Beneath them are various figures in attitudes of
contention, representing various states of misery, which, alas! every one on
earth is liable to enter into, and against which we should all watch. The
ladies will be pleased to see that I have represented the Furies by three
men, and not by three women. It is not because I think the ancients wrong;
but they will be pleased to remember that mine is vision, and not fable. The
spectator may suppose them clergymen in the pulpit, scourging sin, instead
of forgiving it.
The earth beneath these falling groups of figures is rocky and
burning, and seems as if convulsed by earthquakes. A great city, on fire, is
seen in the distance. The armies (?) are fleeing upon the mountains. On the
foreground Hell is opened, and many figures are descending into it down
stone steps, and beside a gate beneath a rock, where Sin and Death are to be
closed eternally by that fiend who carries the key in one hand, and drags
them down with the other. On the rock, and above the gate, a fiend with
wings urges the wicked onward with fiery darts. He is Hazael, the Syrian,
who drives abroad all those who rebel against the Saviour.
Beneath the steps is Babylon, represented by a
king crowned, grasping his sword and his sceptre. He is just awakened out of
his grave. Around him are other kingdoms arising to judgment, represented in
this picture by single personages, according to the descriptions in the
Prophets. The figure dragging up a woman by her hair represents the
Inquisition, as do those contending on the sides of the pit; and, in
particular, the man strangling a woman represents a cruel Church.
Two persons, one in purple, the other in scarlet, are descending down
the steps into the pit. These are Caiaphas and Pilate; two states where all
those reside who calumniate and murder under pretence of holiness and
justice. Caiaphas has a blue flame, like a mitre, on his head: Pilate has
bloody hands, that can never be cleansed. The females behind them represent
the females belonging to such states, who are under perpetual terrors and
vain dreams plots, and secret deceit. Those figures that descend into the
flames before Caiaphas and Pilate are Judas and those of his class.
Achitophel is also here, with the cord in his hand.
Between the figures of Adam and Eve appears a fiery gulph descending
from the sea of fire before the throne. In this cataract four angels descend
headlong with four trumpets to awake the dead. Beneath these is the seat of
the harlot, named Mystery in the Revelations. She is seized by two beings,
each with three heads: they represent vegetative existence. As it is written
in Revelations, they strip her naked, and burn her with fire. It represents
the eternal consumption of vegetable life and death, with its lusts. The
wreathed torches in their hands represent eternal fire, which is the fire of
generation or vegetation: it is an eternal consummation. Those who are
blessed with imaginative vision see this eternal female, and tremble at what
others fear not; while they despise and laugh at what others fear. Beneath
her feet is a flaming cavern, in which are seen her kings, and councillors,
and warriors, descending in flames, lamenting, and
looking upon her in astonishment and terror, and
Hell is opened beneath her seat; on the left hand, the great Red Dragon with
seven heads and ten horns. He has a book of accusations, lying on the rock,
open before him. He is bound in chains by two strong demons: they are Gog
and Magog, who have been compelled to subdue their master (Ezekiel xxxviii.
c. 8 v.) with their hammer and tongs, about to new-create the seven-headed
kingdoms. The graves beneath are opened, and the dead awake and obey the
call of the trumpet: those on the right hand awake in joy, those on the left
in horror. Beneath the Dragon’s cavern a skeleton begins to
animate, starting into life at the trumpet’s sound, while the
wicked contend with each other on the brink of perdition. On the right, a
youthful couple are awaked by their children; an aged patriarch is awaked by
his aged wife: he is Albion, our ancestor, patriarch of the Atlantic
Continent, whose history preceded that of the Hebrews, and in whose sleep,
or chaos, creation began. The good woman is Britannica, the wife of Albion.
Jerusalem is their daughter. Little infants creep out of the flowery mould
into the green fields of the blessed, who, in various joyful companies,
embrace and ascend to meet eternity.
The persons who ascend to meet the Lord, coming in the clouds with
power and great glory, are representations of those states described in the
Bible under the names of the Fathers before and after the Flood. Noah is
seen in the midst of these, canopied by a rainbow. On his right hand Shem,
and on his left Japhet. These three persons represent Poetry, Painting, and
Music, the three powers in man of conversing with Paradise, which the Flood
did not sweep away. Above Noah is the Church Universal, represented by a
woman surrounded by infants. There is such a state in eternity: it is
composed of the innocent civilized heathen and the uncivilized savage, who,
having not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law. This state
appears like a female crowned with stars, driven into the wilderness: she
moon under her feet. The aged figure with wings,
having a writing tablet, and taking account of the numbers who arise, is
that Angel of the Divine Presence mentioned in Exodus xiv. c. 19 v.
Around Noah, and beneath him, are various figures risen into the air.
Among these are three females, representing those who are not of the dead,
but of those found alive at the Last Judgment. They appear to be innocently
gay and thoughtless, not being among the condemned, because ignorant of
crime in the midst of a corrupted age. The Virgin Mary was of this class. A
mother meets her numerous family in the arms of their father: these are
representations of the Greek learned and wise, as also of those of other
nations, such as Egypt and Babylon, in which were multitudes who shall meet
the Lord coming in the clouds.
The children of Abraham, or Hebrew Church, are represented as a stream
of figures, on which are seen stars, somewhat like the Milky Way. They
ascend from the earth, where figures kneel, embracing above the graves, and
represent religion, or civilized life, such as it is in the Christian
Church, which is the offspring of the Hebrew. Just above the graves, and
above the spot where the infants creep out of the ground (?) stand
two—a man and woman: these are the primitive Christians. The two
figures in purifying flames, by the side of the Dragon’s cavern,
represent the latter state of the Church, when on the verge of perdition,
yet protected by a flaming sword. Multitudes are seen ascending from the
green fields of the blessed, in which a Gothic church is representative of
true art (called Gothic in all ages, by those who follow the fashion, as
that is called which is without shape or fashion). By the right hand of
Noah, a woman with children represents the state called Laban the Syrian: it
is the remains of civilization in the state from whence Adam was taken.
Also, on the right hand of Noah, a female descends to meet her lover or
husband, representative of that love called friendship, which looks for no
other heaven than
the beloved, and in him sees all reflected as in a
Glass of eternal diamond.
On the right hand of these rise the diffident and humble, and on their
left a solitary woman with her infant. These are caught up by three aged
men, who appear as suddenly emerging from the blue sky for their help. These
three aged men represent divine providence, as opposed to and distinct from
divine vengeance, represented by three aged men, on the side of the picture
among the wicked, with scourges of fire.
If the spectator could enter into these images in his imagination,
approaching them on the fiery chariot of his contemplative thought; if he
could enter into Noah’s rainbow, could make a friend and
companion of one of these images of wonder, which always entreat him to
leave mortal things (as he must know), then would he arise from the grave,
then would he meet the Lord in the air, and then he would be happy. General
knowledge is remote knowledge: it is in particulars that wisdom consists,
and happiness too. Both in art and in life general masses are as much art as
a pasteboard man is human. Every man has eyes, nose, and mouth; this every
idiot knows; but he who enters into and discriminates most minutely the
manners and intentions, the characters in all their branches, is the alone
wise or sensible man; and on this discrimination all art is founded. I
entreat, then, that the spectator will attend to the hands and feet; to the
lineaments of the countenance: they are all descriptive of character, and
not a line is drawn without intention, and that most discriminate and
particular. As poetry admits not a letter that is insignificant, so painting
admits not a grain of sand, or a blade of grass
insignificant—Much less an insignificant blur or mark.
Above the head of Noah is Seth. This state, called Seth, is male and
female, in a higher state of happiness than Noah, being nearer the state of
innocence. Beneath the feet of Seth two figures represent the two seasons of
Spring and Autumn,
while, beneath the feet of Noah, four seasons
represent the changed state made by the Flood.
By the side of Seth is Elijah: he comprehends all the prophetic
characters. He is seen on his fiery chariot, bowing before the throne of the
Saviour. In like manner the figures of Seth and his wife comprehend the
Fathers before the Flood, and their generations: when seen remote, they
appear as one man. A little below Seth, on his right, are two figures, a
male and a female, with numerous children. These represent those who were
not in the line of the Church, and yet were saved from among the
antediluvians who perished. Between Seth and these, a female figure
represents the solitary state of those who, previous to the Flood, walked
All these rise towards the opening cloud before the throne, led
onward by triumphant groups of infants. Between Seth and Elijah three female
figures, crowned with garlands, represent Learning and Science, which
accompanied Adam out of Eden.
The cloud that opens, rolling apart from before the throne, and
before the new heaven and the new earth, is composed of various groups of
figures, particularly the four living creatures mentioned in Revelations as
surrounding the throne. These I suppose to have the chief agency in removing
the old heaven and the old earth, to make way for the new heaven and the new
earth, to descend from the throne of God and of the Lamb. That living
creature on the left of the throne gives to the seven Angels the seven vials
of the wrath of God, with which they, hovering over the deeps beneath, pour
out upon the wicked their plagues. The other living creatures are descending
with a shout, and with the sound of the trumpet, and directing the combats
in the upper elements. In the two corners of the picture: on the left hand,
Apollyon is foiled before the sword of Michael; and, on the right, the two
witnesses are subduing their enemies.
On the cloud are opened the books of remembrance of life and death:
before that of life, on the right, some figures
bow in lamentation; before that of death, on the
left, the Pharisees are pleading their own righteousness. The one shines
with beams of light, the other utters lightening and tempests.
A Last Judgement is necessary because fools flourish. Nations flourish
under wise rulers, and are depressed under foolish rulers; it is the same
with individuals as with nations. Works of art can only be produced in
perfection where the man is either in affluence or is above the care of it.
Poverty is the fools’ rod, which at last is turned on his own
back. That is a Last Judgement, when men of real art govern, and pretenders
fall. Some people, and not a few artists, have asserted that the painter of
this picture would not have done so well if he had been properly encouraged.
Let those who think so reflect on the state of nations under povery, and
their incapability of art. Though art is above either, the argument is
better for affluence than poverty; and, though he would not have been a
greater artist, yet he would have produced greater works of art, in
proportion to his means. A Last Judgement is not for the purpose of making
bad men better, but for the purpose of hindering them from oppressing the
Around the throne heaven is opened, and the nature of eternal things
displayed, all springing from the Divine Humanity. All beams from Him: He is
the bread and the wine; he is the water of life. Accordingly, on each side
of the opening heaven appears an Apostle: that on the right represents
Baptism; that on the left represents the Lord’s Supper.
All the life consists of these two: throwing off error and knaves from
our company continually, and receiving truth or wise men into our company
continually. He who is out of the Church and opposes it is no less an agent
of religion than he who is in it: to be an error, and to be cast out, is a
part of God’s design. No man can embrace true art till he has
explored and cast out false art (such is the nature of mortal
things); or he will be himself cast out by those
who havealready embraced true art. Thus, my picture is a history of art and
science, the foundation of society, which is humanity itself. What are all
the gifts of the Spirit but mental gifts? Whenever any individual rejects
error, and embraces truth, a Last Judgment passes upon that individual.
Over the head of the Saviour and Redeemer, the Holy Spirit, like a
dove, is surrounded by a blue heaven, in which are the two cherubim that
bowed over the ark; for here the temple is open in heaven, and the ark of
the covenant is a dove of peace. The curtains are drawn apart, Christ having
rent the veil: the candlestick and the table of show-bread appear on each
side: a glorification of angels with harps surrounds the dove.
The Temple stands on the mount of God. From it flows on each side a
river of life, on whose banks grows the Tree of Life, among whose branches
temples and pinnacles, tents and pavilions, gardens and groves, display
Paradise, with its inhabitants, walking up and down, in conversations
concerning mental delights. Here they are no longer talking of what is good
and evil, or of what is right or wrong, and puzzling themselves in
Satan’s labyrinth; but are conversing with eternal realities, as
they exist in the human imagination.
We are in a world of generation and death, and this world we must cast
off if we would be artists (?) such as Raphael, Michael Angelo, and the
ancient sculptors. If we do not cast off this world, we shall be only
Venetian painters, who will be cast off and lost from art.
Jesus is surrounded by beams of glory, in which are seen all around
him infants emanating from Him: these represent the eternal births of
intellect from the divine humanity. A rainbow surrounds the throne and the
glory, in which youthful nuptials receive the infants in their hands. In
eternity woman is the emanation of man; she has no will of her own; there is
no such thing in eternity as a female will.
On the side next Baptism are seen those called in the
Bible Nursing Fathers and Nursing Mothers: they
represent Education. On the side next the Lord’s Supper, the Holy
Family, consisting of Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Zacharias, and
Elizabeth, receiving the bread and wine, among other spirits of the Just
made perfect. Beneath these, a cloud of women and children are taken up,
fleeing from the rolling cloud which separates the wicked from the seats of
bliss. These represent those who, though willing, were too weak to reject
error without the assistance and countenance of those already in the truth:
for a man can only reject error by the advice of a friend, or by the
immediate inspiration of God. It is for this reason, among many others, that
I have put the Lord’s Supper on the left hand of the throne, for
it appears so at the Last Judgment for a protection.
The painter hopes that his friends, Anytus, Melitus, and Lycon, will
perceive that they are not now in ancient Greece; and, though they can use
the poison of calumny, the English public will be convinced that such a
picture as this could never be painted by a madman, or by one in a state of
outrageous manners; as these bad men both print and publish by all the means
in their power. The painter begs public protection, and all will be well.
Men are admitted into heaven, not because they have curbed and
governed their passions, or have no passions, but because they have
cultivated their understandings. The treasures of heaven are not negations
of passion, but realities of intellect, from which all the passions emanate,
uncurbed in their eternal glory. The fool shall not enter into heaven, let
him be ever so holy: holiness is not the price of entrance into heaven.
Those who are cast out are all those who, having no passions of their own,
because no intellect, have spent their lives in curbing and governing other
people’s by the various arts of poverty, and cruelty of all
kinds. The modern Church crucifies Christ with the head downwards. Woe, woe,
woe to you, hypocrites! Even murder, which the Courts of Justice (more
merciful than the Church) are
whispered to allow, is not done in passion, but
in cool-blooded design and intention.
Many suppose that before the Creation all was solitude and chaos. This
is the most pernicious idea that can enter the mind, as it takes away all
sublimity from the Bible, and limits all existence to creation and
chaos—to the time and space fixed by the corporeal, vegetative
eye, and leaves the man who entertains such an idea the habitation of
unbelieving demons. Eternity exists, and all things in eternity, independent
of creation, which was an act of mercy. I have represented those who are in
eternity by some in a cloud, within the rainbow that surrounds the throne.
They merely appear as in a cloud, when anything of creation, redemption, or
judgment, is the subject of contemplation, though their whole contemplation
is concerning these things. The reason they so appear is the humiliation of
the reason and doubting selfhood, and the giving all up to inspiration. By
this it will be seen that I do not consider either the just, or the wicked,
to be in a supreme state, but to be, every one of them, states of the sleep
which the soul may fall into in its deadly dreams of good and evil, when it
leaves Paradise following the Serpent.
Many persons, such as Paine and Voltaire, with some of the ancient
Greeks, say: ‘We will not converse concerning good and evil; we
will live in Paradise and Liberty.’ You may do so in spirit, but
not in the mortal body, as you pretend, till after a Last Judgment. For in
Paradise they have no corporeal and mortal body:
originated with the Fall and was called Death, and cannot be removed but by
a Last Judgment. While we are in the world of mortality, we must
suffer—the whole Creation groans to be delivered.
There will always be as many hypocrites born as honest men, and they
will always have superior power in mortal things. You cannot have liberty in
this world without what you call moral virtue, and you cannot have moral
virtue without the subjection of that half of the human race who hate what
you call moral virtue.
The nature of hatred and envy, and of all the mischiefs in the world,
is here depicted. No one envies or hates one of his own party; even the
devils love one another in their own way. They torment one another for other
reasons than hate or envy: these are only employed against the just. Neither
can Seth envy Noah, or Elijah envy Abraham; but they may both of them envy
the success of Satan, or of Og, or Moloch. The horse never envies the
peacock, nor the sheep the goat; but they envy a rival in life and
existence, whose ways and means exceed their own. Let him be of what class
of animals he will, a dog will envy a cat who is pampered at the expense of
his own comfort, as I have often seen. The Bible never tells us that devils
torment one another through envy; it is through this that they torment the
just. But for what do they torment one another? I answer: For the coercive
laws of hell, moral hypocrisy. They torment a hypocrite when he is
discovered—they punish a failure in the tormentor who has
suffered the subject of his torture to escape. In Hell, all is
self-righteousness; there is no such thing there as forgiveness of sin. He
who does forgive sin is crucified as an abetter of criminals, and he who
performs works of mercy, in any shape whatever, is punished and, if
possible, destroyed—not through envy, or hatred, or malice, but
through self-righteousness, that thinks it does God service, which god is
Satan. They do not envy one another: they contemn or despise one another.
Forgiveness of sin is only at the judgment-seat of Jesus the Saviour, where
the accuser is cast out, not because he sins, but because he torments the
just, and makes them do what he condemns as sin, and what he knows is
opposite to their own identity.
It is not because angels are holier than men or devils that makes them
angels, but because they do not expect holiness from one another, but from
The player is a liar when he says: ‘Angels are happier than
men, because they are better.’ Angels are happier than men and
devils, because they are not always prying after good
and evil in one another, and eating the tree of
knowledge for Satan’s gratification.
The Last Judgment is an overwhelming of bad art and science. Mental
things are alone real: what is called corporeal nobody knows of; its
dwelling-place is a fallacy, and its existence an imposture. Where is the
existence out of mind, or thought?—where is it but in the mind of
a fool. Some people flatter themselves that there will be no Last Judgment,
and that bad art will be adopted and mixed with good art—that
error or experiment will make a part of truth; and they boast that it is its
foundation. These people flatter themselves; I will not flatter them. Error
is created, truth is eternal. Error or creation will be burned up, and then,
and not till then, truth or eternity will appear. It is burned up the moment
men cease to behold it. I assert, for myself, that I do not behold the
outward creation, and that to me it is hindrance and not action.
‘What!’ it will be questioned; ‘when the
sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire, somewhat like a
guinea?’ Oh! no, no! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly
host, crying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God
Almighty!’ I question not my corporeal eye, any more than I would
question a window concerning a sight. I look through it, and not with it.
The Last Judgment [will be] when all those are cast away who trouble
religion with questioning concerning good and evil, or eating of the tree of
those knowledges or reasonings which hinder the vision of God, turning all
into a consuming fire. When imagination, art, and science, and all
intellectual gifts, all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, are looked upon as of
no use, and only contention remains to man; then the Last Judgment begins,
and its vision is seen by the eye of every one according to the situation he
The aid of the photo-intaglio process has been
called in to give
Job series as a thorough and important example of
style. These photo-intaglios are, of course, line
for line, and
minutest touch for touch, the counterparts of their
are smaller, but on the whole they may be safely put
giving a very sufficient idea of these, quite complete,
many of the most essential respects; and considering that
original publication is a rare and high-priced book, its
here is a very valuable addition to our table of contents.
Quite as valuable, though still in another way not quite perfect,
are the original plates of the
also given. These were recovered
by Mr. Gilchrist, being the
only remnant of the series still in ex-
istence on copper; the rest
having, it is believed, been stolen after
Blake’s death, and
sold for old metal. They are, therefore, as abso-
as those appearing in the copies printed by
and the reason why they must still be pronounced imperfect is
they were intended as a mere preparation for colouring by hand,
has been explained in the
while, being here necessarily given
without the colour, they
cannot be said to embody Blake’s intention
them. Much which may here seem unaccountably
rugged and incomplete is
softened by the sweet liquid rainbow tints
of the coloured copies into
a mysterious brilliancy which could never
have been obtained over a
first printing of a neater or more exact
kind; body colour as well as
transparent colour being used in the
finishing. However, there will be
no doubt among those who love
Blake’s works as to the
advisability of including them here even in
the rough; and indeed, to
any observer of poetic feeling, it is but the
first glance at them
which can prove really disappointing. Abundant
beauty remains, even without the colour, in the
wealth of lovely ever-
varying lines, and plentiful overgrowth from the
very heart of the
painter, springing and clinging all round the
beautiful verses. No
littleness here because the scale of work is a
small one. Almost any
one of these pages might be painted, writing and
all, on a space
twenty feet high, and leave nothing to be desired as
On comparing these Plates with the fac-similes of designs
ing to the same class of Blake’s works which are
contained in the
first volume, it will be at once apparent that the
latter are generally
extremely successful as reproductions of his
style. His work of
other kinds, more dependent on engraving in lines,
was far more
difficult to deal with by the process adopted; but
everywhere the aim
has been towards the utmost fidelity whether the
fac-simile was on the
exact scale of the original or not.
In concluding the last of the brief prefatory notes to the various
sections of this second volume, the writer of them believes he may
trust not only to have expressed his own views on the matters to
they relate, but that these are also in harmony with the inten-
and fully-matured plans of his friend the author of the
He had had many conversation with Mr. Gilchrist regarding
completion of this cherished work; and must have understaken
slight supplementary task with a still heavier heart, had he not
sure that he agreed with the author of the work in all points
cerning its subject, and that there was no danger of any
being expressed in the few closing passages, which
he would un-
willingly have endorsed. It may be said on this
last page that,
at least, neither love of Blake in its author, nor love
of its author in
those on whom the issuing of his work devolved, has
to make it a true memorial of both.
D. G. R.
Transcription Gap: 205-383 (Not by or related to DGR)