Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/128

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110
THE POEMS OF WILLIAM BLAKE.


Casting her blue eyes over the green ocean;
Or, towering, stand upon the roaring waves,
Stretching her mighty spear o'er distant lands,
While with her eagle wings she covereth
Fair Albion's shore and all her families."

This is the song of the Minstrel as given in the Selections. I have the highest esteem for the taste and judgment of Mr. Dante G. Rossetti, and the whole reading public owes him no common debt of gratitude for his work in the second volume as well as for the Supplementary Chapter in the first. It is probable, it is almost certain, that he has published quite as much of Blake's poetry and prose as it was prudent to publish experimentally after the neglect of eighty years. But if the above interlineal points mark omissions, the omitted passages should be re-instated in the next edition; the whole of this Song, as it stands in Blake's earliest volume or in manuscript, should be given at any rate in an Appendix if not in the body of the work. For this Chant belongs to the whole British people; it is one of the most precious among the most precious heirlooms bequeathed to us by our forefathers; it is a national jewel of such magnificence that no one man, however honest and skilful, can be trusted to cut it and set it in accordance with his private opinion.

We English are surely a strange people. Pictures beyond price are bequeathed to us, and our first step towards disposing of them satisfactorily is to bury them away where they cannot be seen. A Song is chanted for us which should thrill and swell every native heart with patriotic pride, a Song great with the grandeur of our national life and history for three millenniums of legends and annals and journals, a Song heroic as Cressy,