Page:Facsimile of the original outlines before colouring of The songs of innocence and of experience executed by William Blake.djvu/15

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ix

"The main part of him was, and is yet, simply inexplicable; much like some among his own designs, a maze of cloudy colour and perverse form, without a clue for the hand or a feature for the eye to lay hold of."—P. 4.

From the effort to comprehend him

"—all mere human patience or comprehension recoils and reels back."

In the complete edition of the Works this "main part" has been relieved of its incomprehensibility once for all, and that most certainly by no greater or higher quality than "mere human patience." But it may not be quite waste of time now to sketch in a very few words an outline of Blake's view of what man truly is, that his conception of "the two contrary states of the human soul" may be indicated correctly, however broadly.

We are from eternity, Blake believed, real spirits—so independent of the sequence of Time and Space that the very word from, when used before eternity, is almost a mistake. We have in us a capacity of vitalizing a portion of ourselves, not used before birth, called the Body—actually a phase of mind fathered by Time and mothered by Space, solidified by the Five Senses. It is our danger as well as our delight. Through it our emotions take on an intensity needful for our eternal growth, while our minds are apt to succumb to the deceit of Reason (as we arrogantly call the mere "ratio of the Five Senses") until we "forget eternity." This narrow bodily or restrictive portion of mind will die and be dissipated with our decomposition after death. It is not wanted in eternity. Here Blake spoke with the materialists who consider thought as a function of the brain. But an effect remains. There is a something in us, not our temporary reason or senses. The only part of us now belonging to it is the visionary power of the rare and clairvoyant Imagination. This takes food from the senses and the reason, but is deceived by neither. Though sensual joys and sensuous images and beliefs be "ruddy and sweet to eat," yet it knows that they are the "fruit of deceit"—as the song called the Human Abstract (No. 47) tells us. From the body springs egotism of all kinds, for this is born with the limited personality, and must die with it. Conscience, as a restrainer of this personality, and law and all that belongs to the Fall,—which was a fall from the eternal into the temporal state,—die with the phase of life with which they deal. But emotions, though also temporary, live, by means of their effect in producing sympathy, for sympathy is the apprenticeship through which we go before our pre-natal state regains its power of merging the One in the Everyone. Meantime we suffer, as well as enjoy. Our mortal part is framed in "cruelty" as well as in "deceit." The main business of life is to keep our minds open to imagination and brotherhood while going through the experience whose