Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/120

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102
THE POEMS OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

love the author and all that he had done; yet the selections from his poems and other writings were a revelation far richer than my hopes. Not only are these selections most beautiful in themselves; they are also of great national interest as filling up a void in the cycle of our poetic literature. I had long felt, and probably many others had felt, that much of the poetry of the present and the last age must have had an antecedent less remote in time than the Elizabethan works, and less remote in resemblance than the works of Cowper and Burns. Yet, since Macaulay's essay on Byron appeared, Cowper and Burns—and in general these two only—had been continually named as the heralds of that resurrection of her poetry which makes glorious for England the crescent quarter of the nineteenth century. A third herald of that resurrection was undoubtedly William Blake; and although he was scarcely listened to at all, while his colleagues held in attention the whole kingdom, the fact may at length be recognised that by him, even more clearly than by them, was anticipated and announced both the event now already past and the event still in process of evolution.

If it be objected that one who was scarcely listened to at all could not exercise much influence, the reply is that we are concerned not with the influence, but with the accuracy and period of the presage. It is written that mankind did not heed Noah, or heeded only to mock, during the six-score years in which he foretold the Flood and built the Ark ready for it; if the Flood really came as he foretold, it attested the truth of his inspiration; but no one now would think that his prophecies were instrumental in accomplishing their own fulfilment, although this opinion must have been general