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they were seen in, Old Parr at the age of forty, and many others which are still extant.
But allowing this want of balance to account for the abnormal variations of vanity, jealousy, and violence, we have a residuum of manly independence, sweet austerity, and faithful devotion that is rare in any annals, most of all in the annals of art. What a touching story it is of the young artist who came to Blake and complained that he was deserted by his inspiration. Blake turned to his faithful wise : “It is just so with us (is it not ?) for weeks together, when the visions desert us. What do we do then, Kate ?" kneel down and pray, Mr. Blake.” What pathetic dignity there is in his often-repeated saying, when time after time his prophetical books were returned upon his hands"Well, it is published elsewhere -and beautifully bound.”
Blake is one of the few artists who worked all their life long under the pressure of poverty, of whom we can safely assert that he would have worked as hard had he been possessed of a competence ; on the other hand, it is equally true that his work would not have been so lasting; the need of finding subsistence kept him saner than he wished to be; had he been a wealthy man, we should have had perhaps twice as many prophetical books-in which his heart was all the time—and no Book of Job. FitzGerald said there was hardly a single poem of Blake's that was good all through.
But the man was one of those few who do with simple seriousness whatever comes to their hand, from an illustrated show-list for Wedgwood to the sublimest and most stupendous designs of heaven and hell. The consequence is that some of his crudest designs, almost childish in their execution, have a suggestive insight that is altogether out of proportion to the artistic value of the work. It would be easy to multiply examples. But take the familiar instance of the early woodcut, "I want, I want," where the little group of enthusiasts have set from a bald shoulder of the globe, as it swims in dark space, a filmy ladder to the crescent moon.
The great value of Blake's life, after all, apart from his productions, is that he is one of the saints of art. That is the problem ! To retain simplicity, naturalness, unselfishness in the service of art. Art seems almost to demand self-absorption, self-cultivation, however noble be the ultimate end it sets in view. The duty of cultivating sensitiveness to impressions is hard to reconcile with high and pure devotion. We in this century feel the contrast perhaps too painfully. The fashionable habit of seeking amusement and interest in the problems of others, and on the other hand the blind, dark pressure of Democracy on
throw into painful prominence the fastidious seclusion of the artist. Nowadays, for a man to throw himself blunderingly into philanthropy,
disguising his own reckless hankering after power and influence under the name of duty, is held to have something of heroism about it. Even failure there is thought to be honourable. But the artist who, in obedience to as inevitable, as high an impulse, isolates himself in the sacred pursuit of beauty in all her forms, is called by hard names if he does not make himself a reputation; and if he does attain notoriety, his selfishness, at all events, acquires prestige. It is in reality a far more arduous undertaking. Fiction and life are full of memorable failures. Roderick Hudson is a magnificent presentation of the failure of character to sustain the devotion of art. The life of one of Blake's greatest admirers, D. G. Rossetti, must be forgiven in the light of his achievements, but cannot be forgotten as one of the most dark and shuddering tragedies ever played upon the human stage. But, on the other hand, such a life as Edward FitzGerald's, with its scanty and fortuitous successes, is yet lifted by its dignity and austerity as high and higher than that of many professional saints. The message that we are in need of is something that will introduce the loving simplicity of the Christian Revelation into the world of beauty; for, comprehensive as that revelation claims to be, it is difficult to define the exact place in the Christian economy which is reserved for hearts haunted by the tyrannical instinct of beauty. Such a life as Blake's is an
attempt at the reconciliation of the matter. He seems to get nearer the divine principle than many professed religionists; as he himself wrote, “I have laboured hard indeed, and been borne on angels' wings."
THE POETRY OF KEBLE
T is a difficult matter to criticise a religious
a purely literary standpoint. There was a curious instance of this last year. When the Keats Memorial was unveiled at Hampstead, Mr. Gosse spoke some disrespectful words of Kirke White. There followed a short sharp controversy in the Standard on the subject. The defenders of Kirke White's position as a poet, based their arguments, as far as I can remember, on the grounds (1) that he was a good Christian, (2) that he might have been Senior Wrangler, (3) that he was the victim of an early death
The facts themselves, or rather the facts in combination, may certainly be said to invest Kirke White with a romantic interest. Southey, indeed, felt this so strongly that he wrote a memoir of the young man, and edited his Remains. But any one who will now study Kirke White's poems in themselves, as literature, without prejudice, must inevitably come to the conclusion that they are worthless, and disfigured by every fault that can be laid to the charge of