Launching this for the big exhibition now on.
WILLIAM BLAKE AND THE IMAGINATION.
There have been men who loved the future like a mistress, and the future mixed her breath into their breath and shook her hair about them, and hid them from the understanding of their times. William Blake was one of these men, and if he spoke confusedly and obscurely it was because he spoke of things for whose speaking he could find no models in the world about him. He announced the religion of art, of which no man dreamed in the world about him; and he understood it more perfectly than the thousands of subtle spirits who have received its baptism in the world about us, because, in the beginning of important things—in the beginning of love, in the beginning of the day, in the beginning of any work, there is a moment when we understand more perfectly than we understand again until all is finished.
WILLIAM BLAKE AND HIS ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE DIVINE COMEDY.
I. HIS OPINIONS UPON ART.
William Blake was the first writer of modern times to preach the indissoluble marriage of all great art with symbol. There had been allegorists and teachers of allegory in plenty, but the symbolic imagination, or, as Blake preferred to call it, ‘vision,’ is not allegory, being ‘a representation of what actually exists really and unchangeably.’
Blake’s poetry has the unpleasantness of great poetry. Nothing that can be called morbid or abnormal or perverse, none of the things which exemplify the sickness of an epoch or a fashion, have this quality; only those things which, by some extraordinary labour of simplification, exhibit the essential sickness or strength of the human soul. And this honesty never exists without great technical accomplishment.
Blake often said that he was joined by invisible sitters as he drew them, including, he claimed, a number of angels, Voltaire, Moses and the Flea, who told him that "fleas were inhabited by the souls of such men as were by nature blood thirsty to excess." In his obituary, it was stated that, "The flea communicated to Mr. Blake what passed, as related to himself, at the Creation. 'It was first intended,' said he (the flea) 'to make me as big as a bullock; but then when it was considered from my construction, so armed—and so powerful withal, that in proportion to my bulk, (mischievous as I now am) that I should have been a too mighty destroyer; it was determined to make me—no bigger than I am.
That's interesting cos I thought you were quoting Milton at first. I haven't encountered Blake like that. Blank verse.
"Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary" very Miltonic
Also just occurred to me that it begins "Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;"
Which codes it as Miltonic cos of "Of man's first disobedience and the fruit..."