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as require powers of an Epic order, and some ol them seem to be above the grasp of our painter. But he shared largely in that kind of intrepidity of spirit which belonged to West and Fuseli: subjects of ordinary emotion had no charms for him: he loved to contemplate what was solemn and terrible; and his mind teemed with magnificent undertakings, which he wanted time or talent to realize. The multitude of his sketches, and the small number of his finished works, attest his immoderate ambition, and his deficiency in some of those high qualities which, like the key-stone to an arch, are necessary to the completion of whatever is vast and grand.
His treatises, like his paintings, are distinguished by their vigour. Of the light and shade of language he was an indifferent master; nor was he fastidious in neatness of arrangement, or nice in accuracy of reasoning: nevertheless, his earnestness of manner renders his writings very readable. His enthusiasm for pencils and chisels knows no bounds: a painting with him is the first of human works, and a painter the noblest of God's creatures. Poetry, he assures us, requires little knowledge, and "the most perfect verse is no more than the animated account or relation of the story of a picture." Poetry, too, he says (and with more truth), is limited by its language to a particular country; while Painting speaks all tongues, and is readable to all nations. Northcote, in his life of Reynolds, reechoes Barry, and proposes to detect the presence of true poetry, by trying if it will turn into shape with the pencil! There is, however, much of our finest poetry that would slip like quicksilver from the pencil of a greater than Mr. Northcote. If a poem be only the animated account of a picture, now many thousand pictures must that man paint who shall give us Shakspeare, or Milton, or Spenser, or Scott, or Southey, or Wordsworth, on canvass: and if poetry be only good when it presents such images as painters can copy, how many passages have age after age admired in vanity and in ignorance! No one but a wild enthusiast, like Barry, would claim, for any artist that ever breathed, an equality of mind with Homer, or Shakspeare, or Dante—men who have influenced the world from its centre to its circumference: and as for Mr. Northcote's test—the winged rapidity of poetry gives us, no doubt, in its lowest, as well as in its higher moods, many pictures, which the genius of art can imbody; but at the same time it presents us with images so vivid and yet elusive, so distinct and yet so shadowy, as to set all art at defiance. Who shall paint Elijah's Mantle of Inspiration—the Still Small Voice—the* War-Horse, whose neck is clothed with thunder, and who snuffeth the battle afar off—the Magic Girdle of the Fairy Queen—or the Cestus of Homer's Venus, so exquisitely rendered by Co wper—
tl An ambush of sweet snares, replete
With love, desire, soft intercourse of hearts,
Painting, like poetry, has followers, the body of whose genius is light compared to the length of its wings, and who, rising above the ordinary sympathies of our nature, are, like Napoleon, betrayed by a star which no eye can see save their own. To this rare class belonged William Blake.
He was the second son of James Blake and Catherine his wife, and born on the 28th of November, 1757, in 28, Broad Street, Carnaby Market, London. His father, a respectable hosier, caused him to be educated for his own business, but the love of art came early upon the boy; he neglected the figures of arithmetic for those of Raphael and Reynolds; and his worthy parents often wondered how a child of theirs should have conceived a love for such unsubstantial vanities. • The boy, it seems, was privately encouraged by his mother. The love of designing and sketching grew upon him, and he desired anxiously to be an artist. His father began to be pleased with the notice which his son obtained —and to fancy that a painter's study might after all be a fitter place than a hosier's shop for one who drew designs on the backs of all the shop bills, and made sketches on the counter. He consulted an eminent artist, who asked so large a sum for instruction, that the prudent shopkeeper hesitated, and young Blake declared he would prefer being an engraver—a profession which would bring bread at least, and through which he would be connected with painting. It was indeed time to dispose of him. In addition to his attachment to art, he had displayed poetic symptoms—scraps of paper and the blank leaves of books were found covered with groups and stanzas. When his father saw sketches at the top of the sheet and verses at the bottom, he took him away to Basire, the engraver, in Green Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and bound him apprentice for seven years. He was then fourteen years old.
It is told of Blake that at ten years of age he became an artist, and at twelve a poet. Of his boyish pencillings I can find no traces—but of his early intercourse with the Muse the proof lies before me in seventy pages of verse, written, he says, between his twelfth and his twentieth year, and published, by the advice of friends, when he was thirty. There are songs, ballads, and a dramatic poem; rude sometimes and unmelodious, but full of fine thought and deep and peculiar feeling. To those who love poetry for the music of its bells, these seventy pages will sound harsh and dissonant; but by others they will be more kindly looked upon. John Flaxman, a judge in all things of a poetic nature, wa3 so touched with many passages, that he not only counselled their publication, but joined with a gentleman of the name of Matthews in the expense, and presented the printed sheets to the artist to dispose of for his own advantage. One of these productions is an address to the Muses—a common theme, but sung in no common manner.
"Whether on Ida's shady brow,
Whether in heaven ye wander fair,
Whether on crystal rocks ye rove
Beneath the bosom of the sea,
Fair Nine! forsaking poesie;
How have ye left the ancient love,
That Bards of old enjoyed in you;—
The sound is forced—the notes are few."
The little poem called "The Tiger" has been admired for the force and vigour of its thoughts by poets of high name. Many could weave smoother lines—few could stamp such living images.
Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In what distant deeps or skies
And what shoulder and what art
What the hammer! what the chain!
When the stars threw down their spheres,
In the dramatic poem of King Edward the Third there are many nervous lines, and even whole passages of high merit. The structure of the verse i3 often defective, and the arrangement inharmonious but before the ear is thoroughly offended, it is soothed by some touch of deep melody and poetic thought. The princes and earls of England are conferring together on the eve of the battle of Cressy—the Black Prince takes Chandos aside, and says—
11 Now we 're alone, John Chandos, I *1I unburthen