Page:A Literary Pilgrim in England.djvu/24

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6
A LITERARY PILGRIM IN ENGLAND

if these stood in the way of Art. These free and astonishing remarks were written round his engraving of the Lacoon. Their meaning is not clear except to his peers, but certain it is that in Blake's view life should be a poem, a free and astonishing thing. The innocence of life he loved; everything done and said at liberty from the mere reason or from the self-conscious, "self-righteous" virtues, as he considered them, of pagans, deists, and agnostics. His own life and work proclaim his own enjoyment in a great measure of this innocence.

He saw life whole. An unlearned man, who can only be understood completely by the very learned, he had made for himself out of the streets of London, the churches and shops, the fields of Dulwich, and out of ruminations among all sorts of books and pictures, a system of the world. The Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, the mystics, newspaper reports of the American War and the French Revolution, popular songs, Westminster Abbey, pictures and sculptures and engravings, London streets, provided the elements of this world. He had no need of crying:

 
"What do we here
 In this land of unbelief and fear?
 The Land of Dreams is better far
 Above the light of the morning star."

For this land and the Land of Dreams were one. Books were, if anything, stronger than direct sensuous experience, or he could not have mingled eyesight and memory of books about foreign lands as in "To the Evening Star":

 
                                "Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,