here detain us : —
For a tear is an intellectual thing,
And a sigh is the sword of an angel king,
And the bitter groan of a martyr's woe
Is an arrow from the Almighty's bow.
Of the pictorial part of the Jerusalem much might be said
which would merely be applicable to all Blake's works alike.
One point, perhaps, somewhat distinctive about it, is an
extreme largeness and decorative character in the style of
the drawings, which are mostly made up of a few massive
forms, thrown together on a grand, equal scale. The beauty
of the drawings varies much, according to the colour in
which they are printed. One copy, possessed by Lord
Houghton, is so incomparably superior, from this cause, to
any other I have seen, that no one could know the work
lS Cote.. "
-J^yf^r.'^!/'^ '^>'^-''- <^^uAi.tortiije.s ' bu,t no mortcf.C men. ccu-i. futcL tAe, MJl
F'or i-ic^/n.a.n. denu/r ..'/tlo
/' "1l <'V=^'-«-"-, "e-ci-urr _^_Aii.c,*s u not ■ n.or can^ /^7f,rry,t
norta-liCr 6e^ iy^° Co roU. ^cke hiUn^S, of £Urna,L DeccU
^^J''i tTLe, Ocite iof jLos. UrtJi^no. Ae^e., 'J' no.n-Le.aLLo..
1/ y e,ci' o-
- ^,7 '^"'^/F^^'-V ^, -h^t^^-^ sr Moral •Vu-tLc&.. najn^ct,Ii<Jlixi .
<-y^O}Lon. Ue.cC thro -the. Cede, of Los^. o-nxi ke, ^tvocC i". t/'o. Ca.tj>
jitf 'J:e,rnaL stcUia-n, he. w 'fi^ie /*»-e^jy- <u^A^. . ^ ts- /ouJ - /iU/.
Oee.in^ ,y-ilbU>ri^ nAcL tiu-nlef ^/uf badi CLcaMn-St: ■ tJie, Define. V'-'in
/ o'^i, ' / ao to Etcj-nai HacuA. tf,C skn-de.-? ,01' J.^atiT^ " "
rioLcf H-(/>Li/T me (L hejxexxth. cuui •spy iMMil>\,(^ t.'iejn.sp./fe~s ouJ-Sio'.:
■hjlp ^"^^ oCOU-ds . bluJ-cL .me., a. ALo-orrty n^ir.u.ii-'AriU of IvyE/ 4^
yVi.IMn.One. aCcoirLpetnj' me., ux. Jn^ dtcct/C ' or ht. a. Ra-i-Wonx. tor
In. t/iaX dari VbU/^ ' / kou^t. $^d.cjci lound me dc/^e. : cu'd on. r^t/ /se^
Y^°':^L ir^ bUcK ^kors oP djO-aJtA. .^ on, I'jjT hj.n(tr . r^eafAs ."-o'-.. S''"''''^
Vjt, ^^e^.rcrtess ^0 ryvt. (£• th^ KunuJ-n. Tootstcp ur _a. ttJ^roy to md,
-^os un.s^ve.rcL'ty-ouJjtej^. CLnci ^ ^f Soud. yyo-S rcj-U o-i. ti-i^ac^u.
I /7u^t t/ie. jycje..d^ for nn.^'onA^Le^nt? c^p.j TVe^c/ truddre^ 'ACfn^/nAn/.
dyo ^ /t ts A^orad. Seye'th, , £. .de-j-O-oys Me.rcj' ^"- /V 'Vi-<^"T- -^
properly without having examined this copy. It is printed
in a warm, reddish brown, the exact colour of a very fine
photograph ; and the broken blending of the deeper tones
with the more tender shadows, — all sanded over with a sort
of golden mist peculiar to Blake's mode of execution, —
makes still more striking the resemblance to the then un-
discovered ' handling ' of Nature herself. The extreme
breadth of the forms throughout, when seen through the
medium of this colour, shows sometimes, united with its
grandeur, a sauvity of line which is almost Venetian.
The subjects are vague and mystic as the poem itself-
Female figures lie among waves full of reflected stars: a
strange human image, with a swan's head and wings, floats
on water in a kneeling attitude, and drinks : lovers embrace
in an open water-lily : an eagle-headed creature sits and
contemplates the sun : serpent-women are coiled with ser-
pents : Assyrian-looking, human-visaged bulls are seen yoked
to the plough or the chariot : rocks swallow or vomit forth
human forms, or appear to amalgamate with them : angels
cross each other over wheels of flame : and flames and
hurrying figures wreathe and wind among the lines. Even
such slight things as these rough intersecting circles, each
containing some hint of an angel ; even these are made the
unmistakable exponents of genius. Here and there some
more familiar theme meets us, — the creation of Eve, or the
240 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1S04
Crucifixion ; and then the thread is lost again. The whole
spirit of the designs might seem' well symbolized in one of
the finest among them, where we see a triple-headed and
triple-crowned figure embedded in rocks, from whose breast
is bursting a string of youths, each in turn born from the
others breast in one sinuous throe of mingled life, while the
life of suns and planets dies and is born, and rushes together
Milton : a Poem in Two Books. TJie Author and Printer,
JV. Bcake^ 1804, is a small quarto of forty-five engraved
pages, coloured by hand in the usual manner. In the
frontispiece of the Jerusalem, a man enters at a dark door
carrying a planet. Would we might follow him through
those dim passages, and see them by his light ! Nor would
his company be less serviceable among the mazes of the
Milton. As this latter work has no perceptible affinity with
its title, so the designs it contains seem unconnected with
the text. This principle of independence is carried even into
Blake's own portrait of his cottage at Felpham, p. 245, which
bears no accurate resemblance to the real place. In beauty,
the drawings do not rank with Blake's most notable works ;
the copy at the Museum (as seen by the water-mark of its
paper — 1808) is not one of the earliest, and others might,
probably, be found surpassing it in point of colour. Two of
the designs chiefly arrest attention ; each of which shows us
a figure falling as if struck by Heaven ; one bearing the
inscription Robert, and the other William. They embody
the sweet remembrance which Blake preserved of his lost
brother, throughout the dying life of every day. Of the two
figures, Robert, the already dead, is wrapped in the deeper
shadow ; but, in other respects, they are almost the same.
• ■' - .
~^. " ^
\- - - .-^ ~- ^^^^ '^i-. . /
^ ^ ^ y
/ ■■ '
'" '■' '!jl
THE CKUCJFIXION.—Fivm JERUSALEM.
>ET. 47.] THE MILTON. 24I
The poem is very like the Jerusalem in style : it would
seem, in fact, to be a sort of continuation ; an idea that is
borne out by the verses with which its singular Preface
concludes : —
„ And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountain green ?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen I
And did the countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills r
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills ?
Bring me my bow of burning gold !
Bring me my arrows of desire !
Bring me my spear : O clouds, unfold t
Bring me my chariot of fire !
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
' Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets ! ' —
Numbers h. 29.
The Milton, as I have hinted, equals its predecessor in
obscurity ; few are the readers who will ever penetrate be-
yond the first page or two. There is also the same religious
fervour, the same high, devout aim :
I touch the heavens as an instrument to glorify the Lord !
exclaims Blake in one place ; and the reader is, with im^
passioned earnestness, besought to give heed unto him in the
following line, which recurs incessantly : —
Mark well my words ; they are of your eternal salvation !
VOL. L R
242 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804.
About Milton we hear very little, but his name is mentioned
in the opening invocation : —
Daughters of Beulah ! muses who inspire the poet's song !
Record the journey of immortal Milton through your realms
Of terror and mild moony lustre !
And afterwards we are told : —
First Milton saw Albion upon the rock of ages,
Deadly pale outstretch'd and snowy cold, storm-cover'd :
A giant form of perfect beauty outstretch'd on the rock
In solemn death : the Sea of Time and Space thunder'd aloud
Against the rock which was inwrapp'd with the weeds of death
Hovering over the cold bosom. In its vortex Milton bent down
To the bosom of death. What was underneath soon seem'd above,
A cloudy heaven mingled with stormy seas in loudest ruin.
But as a wintry globe descends precipitant, through Beulah, bursting
With thunders loud and terrible, so Milton's shadow fell
Precipitant, loud thund'ring, into the sea of Time and Space.
Two other familiar names find pregnant mention.
God sent his two servants Whitfield and Wesley ; were they
Or were they idiots and madmen ? * Shew us miracles ? '
Can you have greater miracles than these? Men who devote
Their life's whole comfort to entire scorn, injury, and death ?
But the chief parts are played, as before, by shadowy or
symbolic personages ; of some of whose names, however, a
definite interpretation here occurs which will be welcome : —
Los is by mortals named Time, Enitharmon is named Space ;
But they depict him bald and aged who is in eternal youth,
All powerful, and his locks flourish like the brow of morning.
He is the Spirit of Prophecy, the ever apparent Elias,
Time is the mercy of Eternity ; without Time's swiftness.
Which is the swiftest of all things, all were eternal torment.
' The latter part of the first book of Milton' says Mr.
Swinburne, — to whose guidance the reader, desirous of testing
his poetic mettle by plunging resolutely through the dark
^T. 47.] THE MILTON. 243
mazes of these labyrinthine, spectre-haunted books, is com-
mended, — ' is a vision of nature, a prophecy of the gathering
' of the harvest of Time, and treading the winepress of war ;
* in which harvest and vintage-work all living things have
* their share for good or evil ' : —
How red the sons and daughters of Luvah ! here they tread the
Laughing and shouting, drunk with odours ; many fall o'er wearied ;
Drowned in the wine is many a youth and maiden ; those around
Lay them on skins of tigers, of the spotted leopard and the wild ass.
Till they revive, or bury them in cool grots, making lamentation.
This Winepress is called War on Earth ; it is the printing-press
Of Los ; there he lays his words in order above the mortal brain
As cogs are formed in a wheel to turn the cogs of the adverse wheel.
All kinds of insects, of roots and seed and creeping things
— all the armies of disease visible or invisible are there : —
The slow slug; the grasshopper that sings and laughs and drinks
(Winter comes, he folds his slender bones without a murmur).
Wasp and hornet, toad and newt, spider and snake, —
They throw off their gorgeous raiment ; they rejoice with loud
Around the winepresses of Luvah naked and drunk with wine.
There is the nettle that stings with soft down ; and there
The indignant thistle whose bitterness is bred in his milk,
Who feeds on contempt of his neighbour ; there all the idle weeds
That creep around the obscure places show their various limbs
Naked in all their beauty, dancing round the whiepresses.
But in the winepresses the human grapes sing not nor dance,
They howl and writhe in shoals of torment, in fierce flames
Tortured for the cruel joy and deadly sport of Luvah's sons
and daughters ;
They dance around the dying and they drink the howl and
They catch the shrieks in cups of gold, they hand them one to
244 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804.
These are the sports of love, and these the sweet delights of
amorous play ;
Tears of the grape, the death-sweet of the cluster, the last sigh
Of the mild youth who listens to the luring songs of Luvah.
With the following sweet reminiscence of life at Felpham,
which occurs in the Second Book of Milton, and with the
quaint and pretty lines apropos of which Blake introduces the
idealized view of his cottage, given at the end of this chapter,
let these gleanings from the 'Prophetic Books' conclude.
Thou hearest the nightingale begin the song of spring;
The lark, sitting upon his earthy bed, just as the morn
Appears, listens silent; then, springing from the waving corn-field,
He leads the choir of day : trill — trill — trill — trill —
Mounting upon the wings of light into the great expanse.
Re-echoing against the lovely blue and shining heavenly shell.
His little throat labours with inspiration; every feather
On throat, and breast, and wing, vibrates with the effluence divine.
All nature listens to him silent ; and the awful Sun
Stands still upon the mountains, looking on this little bird
With eyes of soft humility, and wonder, love, and awe.
Then loud, from their green covert, all the birds begin their
The thrush, the linnet and the goldfinch, robin and the wren,
Awake the sun from his sweet reverie upon the mountains ;
The nightingale again essays his song, and through the day
And through the night warbles luxuriant ; every bird of song
Attending his loud harmony with admiration and love.
(This is a vision of the lamentation of Beulah over Ololon.)
Thou perceivest the flowers put forth their precious odours.
And none can tell how from so small a centre come such sweets,
Forgetting that within that centre Eternity expands
Its ever-during doors that Og and Anak fiercely guard.
First, ere the morning breaks, joy opens in the flowery bosoms,
Joy even to tears, which the sun, rising, dries ; first the wild
And meadow-sweet, downy and soft, waving among the reeds,
Light springing on the air, lead the sweet dance ; they wake
The honeysuckle sleeping on the oak, the flaunting beauty
Revels along upon the wind; the white thorn, lovely May,
Opens her many lovely eyes; listening, the rose still sleeps.
None dare to wake her : soon she bursts her crimson-curtained
And comes forth in the majesty of beauty; every flower,
The pink, the jasmine, the wallflower, the carnation.
The jonquil, the mild lily opes her heavens ; every tree
And flower and herb soon fill the air with an innumerable dance.
Yet all in order sweet and lovely; men are sick with love.
Such is a vision of the lamentation of Beulah over Ololon.
* When Los joined with me he took me in his fiery whirlwind;
My vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeth's shades;
He set me down in Felpham's vale, and prepared a beautiful
Cottage for me, that, in three years, I might write all these
To display Nature's cruel holiness ; the deceits of Natural Religion.
Walking in my cottage garden, sudden I beheld
The virgin Ololon, and address'd her as a daughter of Beulah : —
* Virgin of Providence ! fear not to enter into my cottage ! '
A KEEN EMPLOYER. 1805—7. [^.t. 48—50.]
To Hayley succeeded a patron who will give even less
pecuniary help, but a more efficient introduction to the
public. This was R. H. Cromek, hitherto an engraver, now
turning print-jobber and book-maker, who, at this period,
discovered Blake. The slighted artist sorely needed a dis-
coverer; he and his wife being now, according to Cromek,
' reduced so low as to be obliged to live on half a guinea a
week.' ' Living ' must here mean board ; for weekly rent
alone would amount to that sum. Thus interpreted, the
statement is not an exaggerated one of Blake's straitened
resources at this and other periods of his life.
During 1804 to 1805 had been produced that series of
Drawings illustrative of Blair's Grave, by which, from the
accident of their having been afterwards really publisJied and
pushed in the regular way, Blake is most widely known —
known at all, I may say — to the public at large. It is the
only volume, with his name on its title-page, which is not
' scarce.' These drawings Blake had intended engraving and
publishing himself They were seen, however, admired, and
purchased, by engraver Cromek — ' engraver, printseller, pub-
lisher, author — and Yorkshireman.' He gave, according to
Smith, ' the insignificant sum of one guinea each for them,'
but, in fact, about a guinea and a half; 'on the express
understanding,' adds Smith, ' that the artist was to engrave
-•ET. 48—50.] A KEEN EMPLOYER. 247
them for a projected edition of The Grave' This, involving
a far more considerable remuneration, would have made the
total payment for the designs tolerably adequate.
Robert Hartley Cromek, a native of Hull, now a man of
five and thirty, had been a pupil of Bartolozzi, and, during
the past ten years, had engraved, with credit, many book-
plates after Stothard. He was one in the numerous band
whom that graceful artist's active fingers kept employed ; for,
as may well be believed, it is vastly quicker work the making
of designs than the engraving them. Among Cromek's
doing are some of the plates to an edition of TJie Spectator
(1803), to I^u Roveray's edition of Pope (1804), and one in
an early edition of Rogers' Pleasures of Memory. With a
nervous temperament and an indifferent constitution the
painful confinement of his original profession ill agreed. An
active, scheming disposition, combined with some taste for
literature and superficial acquaintance with it, tempted him
to exchange, as many second-rate engravers have done, the
steady drudgery of engraving for the more profitable, though
speculative, trade of print-publisher and dealer, or farmer of
the talents of others. He had little or no capital. This
edition of Blair's Grave, with illustrations by Blake, was his
first venture. And twenty guineas for twelve of the most
original designs of the century, and not unintelligible designs,
though from Blake's mystic hand, was no bad beginning.
Even in this safe investment, however, the tasteful Yorkshire-
man showed bolder discernment of unvalued genius than the
stolid trade ever hazarded.
In 1805 the Prospectus \\2lS issued; from which it appears,
it was then intended for Blake to engrave the illustrations.
The Prospectus was helped by an elaborate opinion in favour
of the Designs from Fuseli's friendly pen, whose word then
carried almost judicial weight. As collateral guarantee was
added an authorized statement of their cordial approval by
President West, and ten other academicians ; among them
Cosway, Flaxman, Lawrence, Nollekens, Stothard. These
248 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1805— 1807.
were credentials by which the practical Cromek set some
store. He had submitted the drawings to those academic
dons, disinterestedly anxious to be assured ' how far he was
' warranted in calling the attention of connoisseurs to what
' he himself imagined to be a high and original effort of
' genius ; ' not, of course, with any eye to the value of such
testimonials with the public. Accomplished Thomas Hope
— Anastasiiis Hope — and virtuoso Mr. Locke, of Norbury,
also ' pledged their character as connoisseurs ' (according
to Malkin) in their favour, ' by approving and patronizing
Blake was looking forward ' with anxious delight ' to the
congenial task of engraving his * Inventions,' and did engrave
one or two. A print in his peculiar, vigorous manner, from
his favourite design — DeatJis Door — I have seen. But shrewd
Cromek's eye had been educated in the school of graceful
Bartolozzi. By him, Blake's old-fashioned, austere style was
quickly perceived to be not in unison with public taste, and
far less likely to draw subscribers than a lucid version of his
wild grandeur by some competent hand. To the initiated,
an artist's rendering of his own conception — that, say, of an
Albert Diirer, a Lucas von Leyden, a Hogarth — has always
the infinitely superior claim, in its first-hand vigour, fresh-
ness, and air as of an original. Such engravings are, in fact,
Cromek selected for his purpose Lewis Schiavonetti, a
native of Bassano, in Venetia, Vv'ho, on coming to England,
had put himself under Bartolozzi, Cromek's master. In that
studio, probably, the two became acquainted. Schiavonetti
rose above all Bartolozzi's other pupils ; above the master too ;
developing an individual style, which united grandeur with
grace, boldness, draughtsman-like power, and intelligence
with executive delicacy and finish. It was a happy choice of
engraver on Cromek's part, and with his views. The large
outlay requisite to secure the Itaiian's service was pretty sure
of ultimate return, with good interest. Cromek's sagacity
^T. 48—50,] A KEEN EMPLOYER. 249
cannot, indeed, be denied. It resulted in the wedding of
remarkable powers of engraving to high design, worthy
of them. In his brief course, Schiavonetti was generally
most unfortunate in having subjects to engrave not deserving
of his skill. A previous engraving from Michael Angelo's
noble Cartoon of Pisa, the plates to The Grave, and a sub-
sequent etching from Stothard's Cantei'biiry Pilgrims^ are the
only examples of a fitly-directed exercise of his powers. By
them alone can they now be estimated. On another ground,
Cromek's decision can hardly be blamed. Schiavonetti
introduced Blake's designs to a wider public than himself
could ever have done.
On the other hand, the purchaser of the designs having
made a certain engagement, it was not open to him, in
honour or common honesty, because it was an unwritten one,
to depart from it for his own advantage, without Blake's
consent, or without making compensation to the artist for his
pecuniary loss. In point of fact, Cromek jockeyed Blake
out of his copyright. And Blake was naturally mortified
and incensed at the loss of profitable and happy employ-
ment to which the new arrangement sentenced him, and at
becoming a mere conduit for the enrichment of two fellow-
Allan Cunningham, who also had had relations with Cromek,
and had kindly reasons for judging him leniently, tells us the
speculator, in paying Blake twenty guineas for the twelve
designs, gave a price which, ' though small, was more than
what he usually received for such productions.' This is what
Cromek, or his widow, told Cunningham ; but the statement
is incorrect. True, Blake's gains were always small. A
guinea to a guinea and . a half each was his price for the
water-colour drawings sold to Mr. Butts and others. But
then he did not lose his copyright ; he was always at liberty
to make duplicates and to engrave them. Clearly, he did
make more by those ; more, also, by the Songs of Innocence
and of Experience, and the other series of designs which he
250 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1805— 1807.
kept in his own hands, and sold engraved copies of, for sums
varying from five to twenty guineas.
While Schiavonetti was at work on his etchings from the
Designs to Blair, hungry Cromek would call every now and
then on Blake, to see what he was doing. One day, he
caught sight of a pencil drawing from a hitherto virgin
subject — the Procession of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims;
Chaucer being a poet read by fewer then than now. Cromek
' appeared highly delighted ' with Blake's sketch, says Smith,
as being an original treatment of an original subject. In
point of fact, he wanted to secure a finished drawing from it,
for the purpose of having it engraved, and ivithoiit employing
Blake, just as he had served him over the Designs to the
The Grave ; as I learn from other sources, on sifting the
matter. However, Blake was not to be taken in a second time.
Negotiations on that basis failed ; but, as Blake understood
the matter, he received a commission, tacit or express, from
Cromek, to execute the design. The Yorkshireman, never-
theless, went to Stothard, suggested the subject as a novelty,
and, in fine, commissionedv of that artist an oil-picture for
sixty guineas, to be engraved^ by Bromley ; for whom Schia-
vonetti was eventually substituted. Whether Stothard knew
of Blake's design I can hardly pronounce ; possibly not ;
certainly he did not, I should say, of Cromek's previous
overtures to Blake, nor of the fact that a subscription paper
for an engraving of the Canterbury Pilgrims had been
circulated by Blake's friends.
This was in 1806, two years before publication of The Grave.
One day, while Stothard was painting his picture, Blake
called on his friend and saw it, ignorant, evidently, that it was
to supersede his own, and that slippery Cromek was at the
bottom of its having existed at all ; nay, was making it his
next speculation with the public. For the two artists to