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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.'
These passages appear to us conclusive as to Blake's real view of his art. Translated into ordinary language from his Swedenborgian or Lavater-like style, they assert his absolute reliance on the inner eye of imagination as his guide. As Mr. Gilchrist notes, they are phrases much like the vision and the faculty,' which the sanest of all our modern poets applied to poetry. The remark that to him the outward creation was a hindrance, is in conformity with other similar expressions, and is fully borne out by Blake's work in its strength and its weakness. It has the wild, mystic, alluring power which belongs only to imaginative intensity. But it wants, to take Mr. Rossetti's phrase, the lovely impression of natural truth. He had an indestructible animosity towards what, to his devout old-world imagination, seemed the keen polar atmosphere of modern science. În society, once, a cultivated stranger was showing him the first number of The Mechanic's Magazine.' 'Ah, Sir,' remarked Blake, with bland emphasis, these things we artists HATE!' (Life, p. 328). This hatred to the mechanical he seems to have carried into an aversion from anything which seemed like merely transcribing nature. He has the rarer gift, indeed, yet only one of the two main gifts which are required for the perfect artist. When a centre of fact and truth was provided, as in the Job,' the deficient balance of his faculties is almost supplied. Yet even here, when we compare him with a man like Flaxman, he leaves us with an impression of unique and glorious Incompleteness.
In the preceding pages we have anticipated most of Blake's achievements during the last third of his life. The story of his latter years, as told by Mr. Gilchrist, is indeed one of eminent interest: a tale of high and noble pathos, not uncheered by many of the consolations which rarely fail a man who, even with certain of the infirmities of genius, pursues his course in singleness of heart and utter unworldliness. Here, too, we reach what in the earlier part of the · Life’ is wanting-an abundance of details upon Blake, given by the attached observers, who were naturally gathered together by the sight of so much genius, united to so much simplicity. Our space will not admit of minute illustration, but we must notice a few characteristic touches.
The quarrel with Cromek led to a worse result. Blake, who in spite of his desultory and imperfect education had a true passion for literature, appears, before his connection with the publisher was broken off, to have shown him a sketch, representing Chaucer's Pilgrims on the Road to Canterbury. What followed is matter of dispute. But it is possible that the subject, as if on his own suggestion, was mentioned by Cromek to Stothard, who, probably without any idea that Blake had preoccupied it, saw its capabilities, and set to work forthwith to paint it after his own fashion. Of course, it is also possible that the Pilgrimage may have been suggested to Stothard in perfect good faith by Cromek, or even by Blake himself, in whom narrow jealousy had no place. At any rate, Stothard's honest disposition is alone quite enough to clear him of any dealing in the matter which could be open to censure. Blake, however, irritated with Cromek, and, like all guileless people, apt to see deceit everywhere when he fancied himself once deceived, included his old friend in his condemnation of the publisher, and, not satisfied with producing a more powerful design before Stothard's was ready, attacked him in the Catalogue already noticed. The breach thus made-in which for a while even Flaxman was included (vol. ii. p. 156)—was never healed. Flaxman's unwearied and unwearyable kindness indeed reconquered Blake; but Stothard, according to Mr. Gilchrist's report, would not be reconciled. This, even on the least favourable construction, was not a case of decided, still less of ill-intentioned plagiarism. It was much less, for example, than the aid which Stothard gave to Chantrey, and was far indeed from such assistance as at least one sculptor of our day (under the very highest patronage) is understood to receive. In the absence of more than our present hearsay information we can only suspend our judgment, and regret the human weaknesses which, even for a time, divided three friends, so long attached and so worthy of each other's friendship. They have now passed where beyond these voices there is peace; and it is only the Immortals, in the phrase of Homer, who, at whatever distance, never fail to recognise each other.
This transient storm is, however, almost the single break in the lofty and admirable tranquillity of the artist's career. The world was not his friend, nor the world's law, We turn gladly from the uncongenial dispute to the contemplation of Blake's latter days, where, whilst his noble endurance of poverty and unflagging creative genius give elevation to the picture, it is also cheered by the troops of friends who, during his latter years, paid honour to the old man eloquent.' Beside the · Job' and the woodcuts to Malkin's 'Eclogues,' Blake now produced a long series of designs to Dante's . Commedia,' still in possession of
Mr. Linnell, whose liberality thus a second time did Blake and us good service. Of these drawings Blake engraved seven. We give one specimen (reduced), which may be profitably compared with Flaxman's version, remembering that the artist was now approaching his seventieth year :
Meanwhile the House of the Interpreter,' as the younger circle of friends named one who, certainly, himself was in no small need of interpretation, was the scene of a calm and happy old age, such as might well be called the Euthanasia of a true artist. One story preserved by Mr. Gilchrist is eminently characteristic. A lovely child of wealthy parents was one day brought to Blake, sitting in his old worn clothes, amidst poverty, decent indeed, but only one degree above absolute bareness. He looked at her very kindly for a long while without speaking, and then, stroking her head and long ringlets, said, “May God make this world to you, my child, as beautiful as it has been to me!”:
We hardly know a tale of more pathetic beauty :
'Sunt lacrymæ rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.' Not less characteristic is the anecdote preserved by Mr. C. Robinson, how he read Wordsworth's great Ode aloud to Blake, almost ready to omit (for fear of unsympathy), as with a sensitive man of fine feeling it always must be, the most imaginative and
transcendental of its expressions; and how Blake at once, with fellow-insight to Wordsworth's, fastened in an almost hysterical rapture' on the very words which the reader justly regarded as the central clue to the poet's magnificent creation :
• But there's a tree, of many, one,
The pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Where is it now, the glory and the dream ?' It is, indeed, no marvel that these words impressed Blake. They are the expression of that imaginative impulse, of that spiritual insight, which he was rarely able himself to embody in such perfect form. They also are words which—and this though the words of the calmest and most philosophical of our modern poets—the world might easily misconstrue into exaggeration or folly. Blake is a wild enthusiast, is not he?' we read that Mr. Cary, the translator of Dante, said about this time before Charles Lamb and Flaxman. Ever loyal to his friend, the sculptor drew himself up, half-offended, saying, “Some think me an enthusiast.”.
Our last extracts are from the letter of Mr. Samuel Palmer, already alluded to. It seems to us, on the whole, the closest and wisest judgment preserved on Blake :
* In him you saw at once the maker, the Inventor. He was energy itself, and shed around him a kindling influence, an atmosphere of life, full of the ideal. To walk with him in the country was to perceive the soul of beauty through the forms of matter. a man without a inask ; his aim single, his path straight forwards, and his wants few; so he was free, noble, and happy. His eye was the finest I ever saw; brilliant, but not roving; clear and intent, yet susceptible; it flashed with genius, or melted in tenderness. Nor was the mouth less expressive; the lips flexible, and quivering with feeling. I can yet recall it when, on one occasion, dwelling upon the exquisite beauty of the Parable of the Prodigal, he began to repeat a part of it; but at the words when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, he could go no further; his voice faltered, and he was in tears.
A saying of Blake's on art is in exact correspondence with the fine sensitiveness here displayed. “Do you work in fear and trembling ? 'he asked of a student who came to him for advice. • Indeed I do, Sir.' • Then you'll do !' was the reply.
The same unity of character and simple persistence in his straightforward course mark the dying hours of the good and
noble 5. Aristoteles
noble old man, Aug. 12th, 1827. It probably was within a very short distance from his own death that Mr. Gilchrist wrote this chapter of his work, and we think he has touched the tale with much skill and tenderness. The last anecdote is well known.
For one of the friends who watched by his bedside the dying artist coloured with his utmost skill that magnificent design of the · Ancient of Days,' which may well bear comparison with the sublimity of Milton and Michel Angelo. After he had frequently touched upon it, and frequently held it at a distance, he threw it from him, and, with an air of exultation, exclaimed, • There, that will do ; I cannot mend it!'
Whilst he said these words his glance fell on his loving Kate, now no longer young, but who had lived with him in these and like humble rooms in hourly companionship, ever-ready helpfulness, and reverent sympathy for now forty-five years. As his eyes rested on the once-graceful form, the thought of all she had been to him in these years filled Blake's mind. *Stay, Kate!' he cried, 'keep as you are !—you have ever been an angel to me!'—and his last work was her likeness.
ART. II.-1. Historia de Animalibus, Gr. et Lat., Jul. Cæsare
Scaligero interprete, cum ejusdem commentariis. Ed. Phil.
J. Maussacus. Tolosæ, 1619. Folio. 2. Histoire des Animaux d'Aristote, avec la Traduction Françoise.
Par M. Camus, à Paris. 2 vols. 4to. 1783. 3. Aristotelis de Animalibus Historia, Libri X. Gr. et Lat. Ed. J. G. Schneider. 4 vols. 8vo.
4 vols. 8vo. Lipsiæ, 1811. 4. Aristoteles Naturgeschichte der Thiere, übersetst und mit
Anmerkungen begleitet, von Dr. Friedrich Strack, Frankfurt am Main. 8vo. 1816.