Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/126

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THE POEMS OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

they are perfect in the spirit of their art; they have certain laxities and redundancies of rhythm, and are here and there awkward in diction, but such youthful sweet errors rather grace than spoil "that large utterance of the early gods." They have the grandeur of lofty simplicity, not of laboured pomp; a grandeur like that which invests our imaginations of the patriarchs; by a well, beneath a palm tree, stands one who wears but a linen turban and a simple flowing robe, and who but watches browsing sheep and camels drinking, yet no modern monarch, however gorgeously arrayed and brilliantly surrounded, can compare with him in majesty.

The Selections from the first volume printed by Blake include extracts from a dramatic work, Edward the Third. It was an attempt to revive the great English Historical Drama; an attempt which failed, and of which all repetitions are pretty sure to fail: the English Historical Drama flourished in a period whose history was itself dramatic, and such a period is not likely to revolve again on our England. But one piece from this drama I must quote at length, and it is hardly rash to prophesy that this same piece will be quoted at length for many generations to come in all worthy books of specimens of the choicest British poetry. The time is the eve of Cressy, the scene is the camp of Edward: a Minstrel sings:—

O Sons of Trojan Brutus, clothed in war,
Whose voices are the thunder of the field,
 * * * * *
Your ancestors came from the fires of Troy
(Like lions roused by lightning from their dens,
Whose eyes do glare against the stormy fires),
Heated with war, filled with the blood of Greeks,
With helmets hewn, and shields covered with gore;
In navies black, broken with wind and tide.
 * * * * *

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