Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/129

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THE POEMS OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

sublime as Trafalgar; and for fourscore years we leave it to that oblivion of oblivions which has never had any remembrance. The poet lives forty years after giving this glorious Song to his people, devotedly loyal to his highest inspirations, pure, poor, obscure; and when he dies, it is here and there casually remarked that a clever madman has at length reached the sanity of the grave. Again forty years come and go ere a few admirers worthy of him they admire can venture with much diffidence (surely but too well-founded!) to bespeak the favour of his people for this Song, in which he has added a great and burning light to their illustrations the most splendid, and for other songs in which he has given them the seed whose harvest is likely to be the wealth and spiritual subsistence of generations yet unborn.

When Blake wrote this, however young in years, he was undoubtedly mature; as Keats when he wrote Hyperion, as Shelley when he wrote Adonais or The Triumph of Life. We shall all soon know it by heart, and cherish it in our hearts, with the speeches of Henry at Agincourt and the Scots wha hae of Burns, with Campbell's Mariners of England and Robert Browning's Home Thoughts from the Sea; and then we shall feel and know that for us, it is perfect beyond criticism, except the criticism of reverent interpretation. It is Titanic, and it cleaves to its Mother Earth like a Titan, like a mountain, like a broad oak-tree; and the grandeur of its strength is the grandeur of a gnarled oak whose vigorous life bursts through all conventional symmetries, the grandeur of a mountain which the central fires have heaved into lines enormous and savagely irregular.

Many years afterwards, in 1789, when Blake was thirty-two, the Songs of Innocence appeared; and we