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was a sort of treachery to friends in itself. “I am no Homeric hero,” he says. He was a born partisan, and never outgrew his inherited character. These words, which are to be found on the margin of a divided part of a proof of his engraving (1779), King Edward and Queen Eleanor, reveal him as he was through life: “The Christian religion shows that no man is indifferent to you, but that every one is either your friend or your enemy-he must necessarily be either the one or the other—and that he will be equally profitable both ways if you treat him as he deserves."
Occasional outbursts of fury remained always noticeable in Blake, but as time went on he became wary, and his violence had a limit even during the very moment of its explosion. When he admitted once having flung a copperplate across the room when out of patience with his own engraving upon it, and was asked, “ Did you not injure it ? ” “I took good care of that,” he answered. This very frank reply at once recalls the mingled caution and frenzy of his great ancestor of Elizabethan days, Shawn ()'Neil, who, when he felt an uncontrollable fit.of rage coming on, would order his followers to bury him up to the neck in sand, so that he might not do something to one of them which he would be sorry for afterwards.
The digging-up of Shawn when his meekness returned to him would offer the subject for a very pleasing historical picture which seems to have escaped the attention of the humorists of our day.
Blake, whose respectable father never seems to have mentioned to him his Irish origin, was always true to his ideal of wrath as a righteous and justifiable emotion. “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction” is well known as one of his aphorisms. It is among the Proverbs of Hell, but this exhortation, written about fifteen years later in Milton, page 25, lines 57, 58, may be read with it,
- pity the weak as your infant care. Break not Forth in your wrath. One terrific outbreak of wrath in others—this time wrath of the multitude, of the weak grown strong for a moment -was seen by Blake in 1780. The lower orders, who had a very small amount of consideration in those days, suddenly burst into tumult, and the Lord George Gordon No Popery Riots gave all Europe a hint of what a mob could do that, imitated and exaggerated at the other side of the Channel, was to produce the French Revolution. Gilchrist has a paragraph about this :
Half London was sacked, and its citizens for six days laid under forced contributions by a mob, some forty thousand strong, of boys, pickpockets, and “roughs.” In this outburst of anarchy Blake long remembered an involuntary participation of his own. On the third day, Tuesday, 6th of June, as the Mass houses" having been demolished -one in Blake's near neighbourhood, Warwick Street, Golden Square, and various private houses also, -the rioters, flushed with gin and victory, were turning their attention to grander schemes of devastation. That evening the artist happened to be walking in a route chosen by one of the mobs at large, whose course lay from Justice Hyde's house, near Leicester Fields—for the destruction of which less than an hour had sufficed-through Long Acre, past the quiet house of Blake's old master engraver Basire in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and down Holborn, bound for Newgate. Suddenly he encountered the advancing wave of triumphant blackguardism, and was forced (for from such a great surging mob there is no disentanglement) to go along in the very front rank and witness the storm and burning of the fortresslike prison and release of its three hundred inmates.
Gilchrist remarks also that Blake was lucky to have escaped hanging for being there. He seems to believe that Blake only looked on. This is incredible. He must have rioted with the rest, for he was “in the very front rank,” and could not shirk. He probably liked it, but it does not follow that he boasted of it afterwards. His friendly hustling of Tom Paine, a little later on, showed that he knew the value of a quiet tongue.
BLAKE, SWEDENBORG, AND NATURE
But besides poetical Sketches that were soon to be published by his friends, and bursts of wrath that, but for Tatham's careful though brief record, would never have been published at all, Blake seems to have begun to form his philosophy while working alone in the great Abbey.
It is not certain how far he did so, because it is not clear how much of the inscription that he placed on a plate that he engraved for himself—that called Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion—is as early as the rest of the engraving. That some of it is so is probable, but the inscription is long, and there was nothing to prevent his adding to it after the date was put down. Its appearance suggests that he did so. The interval may have been only of minutes, but it may have been of years.
His poetry of this time was still entirely free from any trace of philosophy, but the vast idea may have come to him now, to be afterwards put into verse under other influence. The engraving itself shows a massive, antique hero, in a helmet, walking slowly down a barren path between rocks, with folded arms, and an expression of tranquil meditation. The attitude of the legs suggests that this design may possibly have been made from a sketch prepared by Michael Angelo for a figure on Christ's left hand in the Last Judgment. The arms and head are different. Perhaps there exists, painted by Michael Angelo, some figure in a position exactly like that in Blake's engraving, but which is now hidden in a private collection.
Blake put “Michelangelo pinxit” on his plate, yet says that it was made from a drawing. The plate bears the date 1773, and was therefore done when he was still sixteen, in the year of the casting down of the Westminster boy, after not more than two years of study with Basire. It is a fine work
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