Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/110

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78
[1789— 90.
LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

from that of the Songs of Innocence, the text (in colour red as before) being relieved by a white ground, which makes the page more legible if less of a picture. I may mention, in corroboration of a previous assertion of Stothard's obligations as a designer to Blake, that the copy of Thel, formerly Stothard's, bears evidence of familiar use on his part, in broken edges, and the marks of a painter's oily fingers. These few and simple designs, while plainly original, show all the feeling and grace of Stothard's early manner, with a tinge of sublimity superadded which was never Stothard's.

In the track of the mystical Book of Thel came in 1790 the still more mystical Marriage of Heaven and Hell, an engraved volume, illustrated in colour, to which I have already alluded as perhaps the most curious and significant, while it is certainly the most daring in conception and gorgeous in illustration of all Blake's works. The title dimly suggests an attempt to sound the depths of the mystery of Evil, to view it in its widest and deepest relations. But further examination shows that to seek any single dominating purpose, save a poetic and artistic one, in the varied and pregnant fragments of which this wonderful book consists, were a mistake. The student of Blake will find in Mr. Swinburne's Critical Essay on Blake all the light that can be thrown by the vivid imagination and subtle insight of a Poet on this as on the later mystic or 'Prophetic Books.'

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell opens with an 'Argument' in irregular unrhymed verse:—

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek and in a perilous path
The just man kept his course along
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,