with her kind love and respect. They were composed above a
twelvemonth ago, while walking from Felpham to Lavant, to meet
my sister : ā
With happiness stretched across the hills,
In a cloud that dewy sweetness distils.
With a blue sky spread over with wings.
And a mild sun that mounts and sings ;
With trees and fields, full of fairy elves.
And little devils who fight for themselves.
Remembering the verses that Hayley sung
When my heart knock'd against the root of my tongue,
With angels planted in hawthorn bowers,
And God Himself in the passing hours ;
With silver angels across my way.
And golden demons that none can stay ;
With my father hovering upon the wind,
And my brother Robert just behind,
And my brother John, the evil one.
1 82 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801ā1803.
In a black cloud making his moan;
Though dead, they appear upon my path,
Notwithstanding my terrible wrath :
They beg, they entreat, they drop their tears,
Fill'd full of hopes, fill'd full of fears ;
With a thousand angels upon the wind.
Pouring disconsolate from behind
To drive them off, and before my way
A frowning Thistle implores my stay.
What to others a trifle appears
Fills me full of smiles or tears ;
For double the vision my eyes do see,
And a double vision is always with me.
W^ith my inward eye, 'tis an old man grey ;
With my outward, a thistle across my way.
' If thou goest back,' the Thistle said,
' Thou art to endless woe betray'd ;
' For here does Theotormon lower,
'And here is Enitharmon's bower,
'And Los the Terrible thus hath sworn,
'Because thou backward dost return,
'Poverty, envy, old age, and fear,
'Shall bring thy wife upon a bier.
'And Butts shall give what Fuseli gave,
'A dark black rock, and a gloomy cave.'
I struck the thistle with my foot.
And broke him up from his delving root;
'Must the duties of life each other cross?
'Must every joy be dung and dross?
'Must my dear Butts feel cold neglect
'Because I give Hayley his due respect?
* Must Flaxman look upon me as wild,
' And all my friends be with doubts beguil'd ?
' Must my wife live in my sister's bane,
'Or my sister survive on my Love's pain?
'The curses of Los, the terrible shade,
'And his dismal terrors make m^e afraid.'
So I spoke, and struck in my wrath
The old man weltering upon my path.
Then Los appeared in all his power :
In the sun he appeared, descending before
My face in fierce flames ; in my double sight,
'Twas outward a sun, ā inward, Los in his might.
' My hands are labour'd day and night,
' And ease comes never in my sight.
' My wife has no indulgence given,
' Except what comes to her from heaven.
.^T. 44ā46] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 83
' We eat little, we drink less ;
'This earth breeds not our happiness.
'Another sun feeds our life's streams;
'We are not warmed with thy beams.
'Thou measui-est not the time to me,
'Nor yet the space that I do see :
' My mind is not with thy light array'd ;
' Thy terrors shall not make me afraid.'
When I had my defiance given,
The sun stood trembling in heaven ;
The moon, that glow'd remote below,
Became leprous and white as snow;
And every soul of man on the earth
Felt affliction, and sorrow, and sickness, and dearth.
Los flam'd in my path, and the sun was hot
With the bows of my mind and the arrows of thought :
My bowstring fierce with ardour breathes.
My arrows glow in their golden sheaves ;
My brother and father march before,
The heavens drop with human gore.
' Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me ;
'Tis fourfold in my supreme delight.
And threefold in soft Beulah's night.
And twofold always. May God us keep
From single vision, and Newton's sleep !
I also enclose you some ballads by Mr. Hayley, with prints to
them by your humble servant. I should have sent them before now,
but could not get anything done for you to please myself ; for I do
assure you that I have truly studied the two little pictures I now
send, and do not repent of the time I have spent upon them.
God bless you ! Yours, W. B.
Next year, in an extract from Hayley's Diary, we again get
sight of Blake for a moment : ā 26th and 2gth of March, 1803
ā ' Read the death of Klopstock in the newspaper of the day,
' and looked into his Messiah, both the original and the
' translation. Read Klopstock into English to Blake, and
' translated the opening of his third canto, where he speaks of
' his own death.' Hayley was at this time trying to learn
German, ' finding that it contained a poem on the Four Ages
' of Woman,' of which he, ' for some time, made it a rule to
184 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801ā 1803.
' translate a few lines ' daily ; finding also, by the arrival of
presentation copies in the alien tongue, that three of his own
works had been translated into Gernaan : the Eassy on Old
Maids, the Life of Milton, and the Tritunphs of Temper. O
Time ! eater of man and books, what has become of these
The next two letters to Mr. Butts show Blake's determination
of returning to London to have been already taken. In his
art, in truth, Blake would not barter independence, or the
exercise of his imaginative faculty for patronage or money.
This residence at Felpham, under poet Hayley's protection,
might have proved a turning-point in his life. Had he
complied with Hayley's evident wishes, and set himself, as
a miniature painter, to please patrons, he might have climbed
to fortune and fame. It was a ' choice of Hercules ' for him
once again. But he had made his choice in boyhood, and
adhered to it in age. Few are so perseveringly brave. Many
who, in early life, elect as he had done, falter and waver in
after years : perchance too late to win that worldly success
for which they have learned to hanker. He saw there was
presented to him this choice of paths and that longer stay
was perilous to the imaginative faculty he prized above all
earthly good. He feared being tempted to sell his birthright
for a mess of pottage ; feared to become a trader in art ; and
that the Visions would forsake him. He even began to think
they were forsaking him. ' The Visions were angry with me
' at Felpham,' he would afterwards say.
April 25, 1803.
My dear Sir,
I write in haste, having received a pressing letter from my
Brother. I intended to have sent the Picture of the Riposo, which
is nearly finished much to my satisfaction, but not quite. You
shall have it soon. I now send the four numbers for Mr. Birch with
best respects to him. The reason the Ballads have been suspended
is the pressure of other business, but they will go on again soon.
Accept of my thanks for your kind and heartening letter. You
have faith in the endeavours of me, your weak brother and fellow-
.CT. 44ā46.] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 85
disciple ; how great must be your faith in our Divine Master ! You
are to me a lesson of humility, while you exalt me by such dis-
tinguishing commendations. I know that you see certain merits in
me, which, by God's grace, shall be made fully apparent and perfect
in Eternity. In the meantime I must not bury the talents in the
earth, but do my endeavour to live to the glory of our Lord and
Saviour ; and I am also grateful to the kind hand that endeavours to
lift me out of despondency, even if it lifts me too high.
And now, my dear Sir, congratulate me on my return to London
with the full approbation of Mr. Hayley and with promise. But
alas ! now I may say to you ā what perhaps I should not dare to say
to any one else ā that I can alone carry on my visionary studies in
London unannoyed, and that 1 may converse with my friends in
Eternity, see visions, dream dreams, and prophecy and speak para-
bles, unobserved, and at liberty from the doubts of other mortals :
perhaps doubts proceeding from kindness ; but doubts are always
pernicious, especially when we doubt our friends. Christ is very
decided on this point : ' He who is not with me is against me.'
There is no medium or middle state ; and if a man is the enemy of
my spiritual life while he pretends to be the friend of my corporeal,
he is a real enemy ; but the man may be the friend of my spiritual
life while he seems the enemy of my corporeal, though not vice versa.
What is very pleasant, every one who hears of my going to London
again applauds it as the only course for the interest of all concerned
in my works ; observing that I ought not to be away from the
opportunities London affords of seeing fine pictures, and the various
improvements in works of art going on in London.
But none can know the spiritual acts of my three years' slumber
on the banks of Ocean, unless he has seen them in the spirit, or
unless he should read my long Poem * descriptive of those acts ; for
I have in these years composed an immense number of verses on one
grand theme, similar to Homer's Iliad or Milton's Paradise Lost ;
the persons and machinery entirely new to the' inhabitants of earth
(some of the persons excepted). I have written this Poem from
immediate dictation, twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a
time, without premeditation, and even against my will. The time it
has taken in writing was thus rendered non-existent, and an immense
Poem exists which seems to be the labour of a long life, all produced
without labour or study. I mention this to show you what I think
the grand reason of my being brought down here.
(^ The yerusalem.)
1 86 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801ā 1803.
I have a thousand and ten thousand things to say to you. My
heart is full of futurity. I perceive that the sore travail which has
been given me these three years leads to glory and honour. I
rejoice and tremble : ' I am fearfully and wonderfully made.' I had
been reading the CXXXIX. Psalm a little before your letter arrived.
I take your advice. I see the face of my Heavenly Father: He
lays His hand upon my head, and gives a blessing to all my work.
Why should I be troubled ? Why should my heart and flesh cry out ?
I will go on in the strength of the Lord ; through Hell will I sing
forth His praises : that the dragons of the deep may praise Him, and
that those who dwell in darkness, and in the sea coasts may be
gathered into His kingdom. Excuse my, perhaps, too great en-
thusiasm. Please to accept of and give our loves to Mrs. Butts and
your amiable family, and believe me
Ever yours affectionately,
Felpham, July 6, 1803.
I send you the Fiposo, which I hope you will think my
best picture, in many respects. It represents the Holy Family in
Egypt, guarded in their repose from those fiends, the Egyptian gods.
And though not directly taken from a Poem of Milton's (for till I
had designed it Milton's Poem did not come into my thoughts), yet it
is very similar to his Hymn on the Nativity, which you will find
among his smaller Poems, and will read with great delight. I have
given, in the background, a building, which may be supposed the ruin
of a part of Nimrod's Tower, which I conjecture to have spread over
many countries ; for he ought to be reckoned of the Giant brood.
I have now on the stocks the following drawings for you : ā i.
Jephthah sacrificing his Daughter ; 2. liuth afid her Mothef'-in-law
and Sister ; 3. The Three Maries at the Sepulchre; 4. Jhe Death of
Joseph ; 5. The Death of the Virgin Mary ; 6. St. Paul Preaching ;
and 7. The Angel of the Divine Presence clothing Adam and Eve
7uith Coats of Skin.
These are all in great forwardness, and I am satisfied that I improve
very much, and shall continue to do so while I live, which is a
blessing I can never be too thankful for both to God and man.
We look forward every day with pleasure toward our meeting again
in London with those whom we have learned to value by absence no
less perhaps than we did by presence ; for recollection often surpasses
MT. 44ā46.] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 87
everything. Indeed, the prospect of returnmg to our friends is
supremely deHghtful. Then, I am determined that Mrs. Butts shall
have a good likeness of you, if I have hands and eyes left ; for I am
become a likeness-taker, and succeed admirably well. But this is
not to be achieved without the original sitting before you for every
touch, all likenesses from memory being necessarily very, very
defective ; but Nature and Fancy are two things, and can never be
joined, neither ought any one to attempt it, for it is idolatry, and
destroys the Soul.
I ought to tell you that Mr. H. is quite agreeable to our return,
and that there is all the appearance in the world of our being fully
employed in engraving for his projected works, particularly Cowper's
Milto7i ā a work now on foot by subscription, and I understand that
the subscription goes on briskly. This work is to be a very elegant
one, and to consist of all Milton's Poems with Cowper's Notes, and
translations by Cowper from Milton's Latin and Italian Poems.
These works will be ornamented with engravings from designs by
Romney, Flaxman, and your humble servant, and to be engraved
also by the last-mentioned. The profits of the work are intended to
be appropriated to erect a monument to the memory of Cowper in
St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey. Such is the project ; and Mr.
Addington and Mr. Pitt are both among the subscribers, which are
already numerous and of the first rank. The price of the work is six
guineas. Thus I hope that all our three years' trouble ends in good-
luck at last, and shall be forgot by my affections, and only remem-
bered by my understanding, to be a memento in time to come, and
to speak to future generations by a sublime allegory, which is now
perfectly completed into a grand Poem. I may praise it, since I dare
not pretend to be any other than the secretary ; the authors are in
Eternity. I consider it as the grandest Poem that this world contains.
Allegory addressed to the intellectual powers, while it is altogether
hidden from the corporeal understanding, is my definition of the most
sublime Poetry. It is also somewhat in the same manner defined by
Plato. This Poem shall, by Divine assistance, be progressively
printed and ornamented with prints, and given to the Public. But
of this work I take care to say little to Mr. H., since he is as much
averse to my Poetry as he is to a chapter in the Bible. He knows
that I have writ it, for I have shown it to him, and he has read part
by his own desire, and has looked \Adth sufficient contempt to enhance
my opinion of it. But I do not wish to imitate by seeming too
obstinate in poetic pursuits. But if all the world should set their
1 88 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801ā 1803.
faces against this, I have orders to set my face like a flint (Ezekiel
iii. 8) against their faces, and my forehead against their foreheads.
As to Mr. H., I feel myself at liberty to say as follows upon this
ticklish subject. I regard fashion in Poetry as little as I do in
Painting : so, if both Poets and Painters should alternately dislike
(but I know the majority of them will not), I am not to regard it at
all. But Mr. H. approves of my Designs as little as he does of my
Poems, and I have been forced to insist on his leaving me, in both,
to my own self-will ; for I am determined to be no longer pestered
with his genteel ignorance and polite disapprobation. I know myself
both Poet and Painter, and it is not his affected contempt that can
move to anything but a more assiduous pursuit of both arts. Indeed,
by my late firmness, I have brought down his affected loftiness, and
he begins to think I have some genius : as if genius and assurance
were the same thing ! But his imbecile attempts to depress me only
deserve laughter. I say thus much to you, knowing that you will
not make a bad use of it. But it is a fact too true that, if I had only
depended on mortal things, both myself and my wife must have been
lost. I shall leave every one in this country astonished at my patience
and forbearance of injuries upon injuries ; and I do assure you that,
if I could have returned to London a month after my arrival here, I
should have done so. But I was commanded by my spiritual friends
to bear all and be silent, and to go through all without murmuring,
and, in fine, [to] hope till my three years should be almost accom-
plished ; at which time I was set at liberty to remonstrate against former
conduct, and to demand justice and truth ; which I have done in so
effectual a manner that my antagonist is silenced completely, and I
have compelled what should have been of freedom ā my just right
as an artist and as a man. And if any attempt should be made
to refuse me this, I am inflexible, and will relinquish any engagement
of designing at all, unless altogether left to my own judgment, as
you, my dear friend, have always left me ; for which I shall never
cease to honour and respect you. ,
When we meet, I will perfectly describe to you my conduct and
the conduct of others towards me, and you will see that I have
laboured hard indeed, and have been borne on angels' wings. Till
we meet I beg of God our Saviour to be with you and me, and yours
and mine. Pray give my and my wife's love to Mrs. Butts and
family, and believe me to remain
Yours in truth and sincerity,
.CT. 44ā46] WORKING HOURS. 1 89
At the latter end of 1803, Hayley, prompted by the un-
expected success of Cowper's Life, began preparing a third
volume of Additional Letters, with ' desultory ' remarks of his
own on letter-writing. The volume was finished and published
by the spring of 1804, Blake executing for it two tame
engravings of tame subjects. One is from a drawing by a
Francis Stone, of the chancel of East Dereham Church, ā
Cowper's burial-place ; the other an etching of the mural
tablet in the same chancel, as designed by Flaxman and
Among other journeywork at this date, J m?y mention
engravings finished May 1803, after six original designs by
Maria Flaxman (the sculptor's sister), to the Triumphs of
Temper, ā the thirteenth edition, not published until 1807.
These amateur designs, aiming at an idealized domesticity,
are expressive and beautiful in the Flaxman-Stothard manner;
abound in grace of line, elegance of composition, and other
artist-like virtues of a now obsolete sort. The engravings
are interesting to admirers of Blake, though monotonous and
devoid of ordinary charms, smoothness and finish.
Uncommissioned work was also, as we have seen, in
course of production now. I mean the illustrated ' pro-
phecies ' in the old class which will next year issue from
Blake's private press : Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant
Albion, very grandly designed, if very mistily written ; also
Milton, a Poem in tiuo Books. Of these, more hereafter.
TRIAL FOR SEDITION. 1803ā1804. I^t. 46ā47.]
High visions and patient industry, friendly intercourse with
his neighbours, and happy enjoyment of nature were all inter-
rupted for Blake during the short remainder of his stay at
Felpham, by the incongruous event in a peaceful and innocent
life narrated in the next letter to Mr. Butts, ā the last of the
series : ā
Felpham, Atigiist 16, 1803.
I send seven Drawings, which I hope will please you. This,
I believe, about balances our account. Our return to London draws
on apace. Our expectation of meeting again with you is one of our
greatest pleasures. Pray tell me how your eyes do. I never sit
down to work but I think of you, and feel anxious for the sight of
that friend whose eyes have done me so much good. I omitted, very
unaccountably, to copy out in my last letter that passage in my rough
sketch, which related to your kindness in offering to exhibit my two
last pictures in the Gallery in Berners-street. It was in these words :
' I sincerely thank you for your kind offer of exhibiting my two
' pictures. The trouble you take on my account, I trust, will be
' recompensed to you by Him who seeth in secret. If you should
' find it convenient to do so, it will be gratefully remembered by me
' among the other numerous kindnesses I have received from you.'
I go on with the remaining subjects which you gave me commission
to execute for you ; but I shall not be able to send any more before
my return, though, perhaps, I may bring some with me finished. I
am, at present, in a bustle to defend myself against a very unwarrant-
able warrant from a justice of peace in Chichester, which was
.ET. 46ā47.] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 191
taken out against me by a private in Captain Leathes' troop of ist
or Royal Dragoons, for an assault and seditious words. Tlie
wretched man has terribly perjured himself, as has his comrade;
for, as to sedition, not one word relating to the King or Government
was spoken by either him or me. His enmity arises from my having
turned him out of my garden, into which he was invited as an
assistant by a gardener at work therein, without my knowledge that
he was so invited. I desired him, as politely as possible, to go out
of the garden ; he made me an impertinent answer. I insisted on his
leaving the garden ; he refused. I still persisted in desiring his depar-
ture. He then threatened to knock out my eyes, with many abominable
imprecations, and with some contempt for my person ; it affronted
my foolish pride. I therefore took him by the elbows, and pushed
him before me till I had got him out. There I intended to have
left him ; but he, turning about, put himself into a posture of defiance,
threatening and swearing at me. I, perhaps foolishly and perhaps
not, stepped out at the gate, and, putting aside his blows, took him
again by the elbows, and, keeping his back to me, pushed him
forward down the road about fifty yards ā he all the while endeavour-
ing to turn round and strike me, and raging and cursing, which drew
out several neighbours. At length, when I had got him to where he
was quartered, which was very quickly done, we were met at the gate
by the master of the house ā the Fox Inn ā (who is the proprietor of
my cottage) and his wife and daughter, and the man's comrade, and
several other people. My landlord compelled the soldiers to go
indoors, after many abusive threats against me and my wife from the
two soldiers ; but not one word of threat on account of sedition was
uttered at that time. This method of revenge was planned between
them after they had got together into the stable. This is the whole
outline. I have for witnesses : ā the gardener, who is ostler at the
Fox, and who evidences that, to his knowledge, no word of the
remotest tendency to Government or sedition was uttered ; our next-
door neighbour, a miller's wife (who saw me turn him before me
down the road, and saw and heard all that happened at the gate of
the inn), who evidences that no expression of threatening on account
of sedition was uttered in the heat of their fury by either of the
dragoons. This was the woman's own remark, and does high honour
to her good sense, as she observes that, whenever a quarrel happens,
the offence is always repeated. The landlord of the inn and his wife
and daughter will evidence the same, and will evidently prove the
comrade perjured, who swore that he heard me, while at the gate,
192 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1803 -1804.
utter seditious words, and d the K ā ~ , without which perjury
I could not have been committed ; and I had no witnesses with me
before the justices who could combat his assertion, as the gardener
remained in my garden all the while, and he was the only person I
thought necessary to take with me. I have been before a bench of
justices at Chichester this morning ; but they, as the lawyer who
wrote down the accusation told me in private, are compelled by the
military to suffer a prosecution to be entered into, although they
must know, and it is manifest, that the whole is a fabricated perjury.
I have been forced to find bail. Mr. Hayley was kind enough to
come forward, and Mr. Seagrave, printer at Chichester ; Mr. H. in
^100, and Mr. S. in ;^5o, and myself am bound in ;^ioo for my
appearance at the quarter-sessions, which is after Michaelmas. So I
shall have the satisfaction to see my friends in town before this
contemptible business comes on. I say contemptible, for it must
be manifest to every one that the whole accusation is a wilful
perjury. Thus you see, my dear friend, that I cannot leave this
place without some adventure. It has struck a consternation through
all the villages round. Every man is now afraid of speaking to, or
looking at, a soldier : for the peaceable villagers have always been
forward in expressing their kindness for us, and they express their