Blake, William - His sources of inspiration
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
London Review of Books Vol. 37 No. 3 · 5 February 2015
pages 24-26 | 4037 words
A Snake, a Flame
Blake travelled in his dreams to Egypt and Assyria, and came across vast paintings on temple walls.
‘Those wonderful originals seen in my visions were some of them one hundred feet in height; some were painted as pictures, and some carved as basso relievos … The Artist wishes it was now the fashion to make such monuments, and then he should not doubt of having a national commission to execute these two Pictures [he has in mind ] on a scale that is suitable to the grandeur of the nation … in high finished fresco, where the colours would be as pure and as permanent as precious stones.’
......No one confronted by the Illustrations of the Book of Job, a selection from which is one of the high points of the Ashmolean’s current exhibition, will be in two minds, I hope, as to the power of Blake’s visual imagination, and the brilliance – if you look at the shimmer of surfaces in Job’s picture gallery, all done in tight engraved line, the visual root of the metaphor comes back to life – of his technique. .................... All critics of the poet’s visual imagery, wishing to understand what they are looking at and feeling the weight of Blake’s words close by, inevitably turn to them for guidance.
‘A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour, or a nothing: they are organised and minutely articulated beyond all that the mortal and perishing nature can produce’:
this is Blake addressing his public in 1809.
‘He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see, does not imagine at all....Nature has no Outline, but Imagination has....The more distinct, sharp, and wiry the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art … How do we distinguish one face or countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its infinite inflexions and movements? What is it that builds a house and plants a garden, but the definite and determinate … Leave out the line, and you leave out life itself.’
...................Writing in Blake, then, races past us, conjuring possibilities, positing and liquidating identities.
I am like an atom
A Nothing left in darkness, yet I am an identity
I wish & feel & weep & groan
He saw the indefinite space beneath & his soul shrunk with horror
His feet upon the verge of Non-Existence.
She rose up e’er the dawn of day
… drawn thro unbounded space
Onto the margin of Non-Entity.
The verge of Non-Existence is Blake’s territory.