Page:Life of William Blake 2, Gilchrist.djvu/206

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148
SELECTIONS FROM BLAKE'S WRITINGS.

for full nine-and-twenty may signify one more or less. But I daresay that Chaucer wrote 'A Webbe Dyer,' that is a Cloth Dyer:

'A Webbe Dyer and a Tapiser.'</poem>

The Merchant cannot be one of the Three Citizens, as his dress is different, and his character is more marked, whereas Chaucer says of his rich citizens:

'All were yclothèd in one liverie.'

The characters of Women Chaucer has divided into two classes, the Lady Prioress and the Wife of Bath. Are not these leaders of the ages of men? The Lady Prioress in some ages predominates, and in some the Wife of Bath, in whose character Chaucer has been equally minute and exact; because she is also a scourge and a blight I shall say no more of her, nor expose what Chaucer has left hidden; let the young reader study what he has said of her: it is useful as a scarecrow. There are of such characters born too many for the peace of the world.

I come at length to the Clerk of Oxenford. This character varies from that of Chaucer, as the contemplative philosopher varies from the poetical genius. There are always these two classes of learned sages, the poetical and the philosophical. The Painter has put them side by side, as if the youthful clerk had put himself under the tuition of the mature poet. Let the Philosopher always be the servant and scholar of Inspiration, and all will be happy.

Such are the characters that compose this Picture, which was painted in self-defence against the insolent and envious imputation of unfitness for finished and scientific art, and this imputation most artfully and industriously endeavoured to be propagated among the public by ignorant hirelings. The Painter courts comparison with his competitors, who, having received fourteen hundred guineas and more from the profits of his designs in that well-known work, Designs for Blair's Grave, have left him to shift for himself; while others, more obedient to an employer's opinions and directions, are employed, at a great expense, to produce works in succession to his by which they acquired public patronage. This has hitherto been his lot—to get patronage for others and then to be left and neglected, and his work, which gained that patronage, cried down as eccentricity and madness—as unfinished and neglected by the artist's violent temper: he is sure the works now exhibited will give the lie to such aspersions.

Those who say that men are led by interest are knaves. A knavish