by storm in Blake's boyhood, and in his manhood was a ruling power in the poetic world. In the 'Prophetic' and too often incoherent rhapsodies of later years this influence increases unhappily, leading the prophet to indulge in vague inpalpable personifications, as dim and monotonous as a moor in a mist. To the close of his life, Blake retained his allegiance to Ossian and Rowley. 'I believe,' writes he, in a MS. note (1826) on Wordsworth's Supplementary Essay, 'I believe both Macpherson and Chatterton: that what they say is ancient, is so.' And again, when the Lake Poet speaks contemptuously of Macpherson, 'I own myself an admirer of Ossian equally with any other poet whatever; of Rowley and Chatterton also.'
The longest piece in this volume, the most daring and perhaps, considering a self-taught boy wrote it, the most remarkable, is the Fragment or single act, of a Play on the high historic subject of King Edward III.: one of the few in old English history accidentally omitted from Shakspere's cycle. In his steps it is, not in those of Addison or Home, the ambitious lad strives as a dramatist to tread; and, despite halting verse, confined knowledge, and the anachronism of a modern tone of thought,—not unworthily, though of course with youthful unsteady stride. The manner and something of the spirit of the Historical Plays is caught, far more nearly than by straining Ireland in his forgeries. Of this performance as of the other contents of the volume, specimens must be deferred till Vol. II.; not to interrupt the thread of our narrative too much.
Fully to appreciate such poetry as the lad Blake composed in the years 1768-77, let us call to mind the dates at which first peeped above the horizon the cardinal lights which people our modern poetic Heavens, once more wakening into life the dull corpse of English song. Five years later than the last of these dates was published a small volume of Poems, 'By William Cowper, of the Middle Temple.' Nine years later (1786), Poems in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert