Page:The Library, volume 5, series 3.djvu/256

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244
AN EARLY APPRECIATION

maintain the same, but it will always remain doubtful in what sense our artist uses these expressions.[1] For in his own description of his allegorical picture of Pitt guiding Behemoth, and Nelson Leviathan (pictures which the present writer, although he has seen them, dares not describe) he says, 'these pictures are similar to those Apotheoses of Persian, Hindoo, and Egyptian antiquity, which are still preserved on rude monuments.' [Other quotations follow from the 'Descriptive Catalogue'—Crabb Robinson resumes:] As this belief of our artist's in the intercourse which, like Swedenborg, he enjoys with the spiritual world has more than anything else injured his reputation, we subjoin another remarkable passage from his Catalogue. His greatest and most perfect work is entitled 'The Ancient Britons.'[2] It is founded on that strange survival of Welsh bardic lore which Owen gives thus under the name of Triads:

In the last battle that Arthur fought, the most beautiful was one

That returned, and the most strong another: with them also returned

The most ugly; and no other beside returned from the bloody field.

  1. 'Sinne' is the word in both clauses of the original sentence.
  2. This sentence is interesting, as confirming Mr. Seymour Kirkup's judgment, who called it the finest of his works, as against Southey's, who in the 'Doctor' called it 'one of his worst pictures, which is saying much.' (Gilchrist I, pp. 276-7.) Swinburne tells us that Mr. Kirkup never forgot 'the fury and splendour of energy these contrasted with the serene ardour of simply beautiful courage, the violent life of the designer, and the fierce distance of fluctuating battle.'