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Wordsworth and Coleridge.i But to the world at large it was a sealed book. And the middle of the nineteenth century had passed before the rare greatness of its author was in any way generally acknowledged.

This long neglect was doubtless partly due to accident—the accident of Blake's lifelong warfare with the publishers. But the cause is to be sought mainly in the poetry itself: in its childlike simplicity; in its profound mysticism; in its anticipation of tendencies which did not come to ripeness till the days of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It is to be sought, that is, in the very originality of the poet—a poet born, it may truly be said, out of due time; in the very qualities which, with his magical symbolism and his subtle, if fitful, ear for melody, are now recognised as the surest marks of his greatness.

The poems written for and about children are perhaps those which are now most widely known and Hu poems of understood. And few are more characdaidiift. teristic of his genius. If he does not, like Wordsworth, seize the aloofness of the child's life, that which makes the child like a spirit of an abiding world moving among creatures of a day, he shares the every-day joys and sorrows of children, their openness to sudden gusts or lingering memories of terror and ecstasy; he feels the poetry of their grief and their gladness, the grace of their rest and their motion, as no other poet has felt or shared them except Hugo. The open-eyed curiosity of childhood, its genius for welcoming each new experience as it comes—all this to Blake was familiar as the day. For throughout life, behind the subtle instinct of the artist, he had himself the heart of a child. And this came to be more and more so as years went on. His first volume, composed mostly in boyhood and very early youth, is without direct evidence to it. The Songs of Innocence and Experience are full of it. Yet behind this simpler strain there is an undertone of mysticism, deeper than that of Wordsworth himself. And it is the union of the two that makes the specific quality of his poetry. It is a quality of which there had been practically no trace in our poetry since the seventeenth century mystics.

i I infer from a passage in Crabb Robinson's Diary (i. 201) that Wordsworth first became acquainted with Blake's poetry in 1812; it is certain that Coleridge did not discover it till 1818 (see Letters, p. 687).


It was just because of his feeling for children that Blake was, like theim' a confirmed visionary. He was Bu visionary so in both senses of the term. He lived ,pirit' in a world of visions. And he saw those

visions as vividly as other men see trees and houses. This is apparent not only in the Designs, which fall beyond our scope; not only in the Prophetic Books, to which no passing notice can do justice; but also, and hardly less so, in the Poems. With all his love of form and colour, of sunshine and flowers, and the "human form divine," it was not in the world of outward things that he either sought or found them. It was in his own heart, and in the "shaping spirit," which built up again from within, and with the largest possible licence of adaptation, all that it had unconsciously taken to itself from without. "Natural objects," he wrote in a note pencilled on the margin of Wordsworth's Poems, "always did, and do now, weaken, deaden, and obliterate imagination in me." We might have guessed it, even if he had not told us himself. His poems, like his designs, abound in images from nature. But here, too, they are commonly, in the strictest sense of the term, images and nothing more. They are symbols of the human thought, the human passion, the mystical divination, for which he is striving to find utterance. The Sunflower is but one instance, though perhaps the most incomparable of them all, of his ceaseless endeavour

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of [the] hand,
And eternity in an hour."1

Even in poems where he seems to take outward things for his theme, the same impulse, under another form, may clearly be traced. A glance at the lines to Spring, which open the Poetical Sketches, will show that it is not Spring as seen by the bodily eye, but the vision of it revealed to the spirit, of which he sings. And so with the other seasons, and the Evening Star, and Morning. All these are magnificent personifications. They challenge comparison with Collins' personification of Evening, and with that of Autumn in the central stanza of the Ode of Keats. But they are more ethereal; and the detail, for all its beauty, is more completely subordinated to the spiritual effect than it is in either of the other poets.

i A uguries of Innocence: Sampson's ed., p. 288.

No less full of mystical feeling, though quite in another direction, are the poems which give imaginative form to his moral and spiritual creed. Here, again, all outward things—in this case, all outward law, all specific duties—have melted away. Pity and love alone are left. When we consider how perilous such themes are to the poet, it is little short of a miracle that Blake should have touched them into poetry so noble as are parts, at any rate, of the Everlasting Gospel and other pieces. Consciously or unconsciously he follows the symbolic method, he has echoes even of the rhythmical movement, of the older mystics, particularly of Vaughan;1 just as in the early love-poem, My silks and fine array, he has caught—consciously, it should seem, in this instance — the very form and music of the great Elizabethans.

So far, it is mainly the wider issues of the romantic spirit that we have been tracing; the sense of wonder, Pictorial tument the attempt to break through the hard inhupoetry. rin(j 0{ convention and routine, the visionary longings of a soul ill at ease in a world of sense. And all of these, except the last, assert themselves in other poets of the time, even in those who cannot, in the stricter sense, be called romantic. With the visionary instincts, however, — and they belong to Blake with far greater intensity than to any poet of his day,—we already staid on the threshold of the inner region of Romance; And there are other qualities of his poetry which still more decisively carry us within the pale. Such are to be found in the poems which either suggest or explicitly embody the terror of the supernatural—Little Boy Lost, for instance, and Fair Elenor. Such, in a still deeper sense, inspire the "sketches," in which the painter's art goes hand in hand with the poet's; the prayer to the Evening Star to "wash the dusk with silver," or the rushing succession of images in The Tiger. Of all poets, until we come to Rossetti, Blake is the most pictorial. And it is here that he is most at one with Romance.

i See Everlasting Gospel, fragment T, ib., pp. 258-60.

The twelve years following 1782 saw the tide setting fairly towards Romance. They also saw a Atttgtddaaicai certain backwash towards the classical *m*ot ideals. The two men whose names are

commonly identified with this return upon the past . /' are Crabbe (1754-1832) and Rogers (1763-1855);/\ and with them must be joined Campbell (17771844), who, coming somewhat later, was, in his earlier work at any rate, more decidedly classical than either of them. No one of them, indeed, is a classicist in more than a very limited sense. It is not from Pope, so much as from Gray and Goldsmith,—from those who led the first line of revolt against Pope, — that they trace descent. Romantic they are not; not consistently; not in the sense in which Blake, or even Burns, is romantic. But in

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