Page:Facsimile of the original outlines before colouring of The songs of innocence and of experience executed by William Blake.djvu/23

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"To Tirzah" condenses a whole volume of mysticism. It accepts mortality for the five senses and is glad of it, since they are the source both of error and pain. It gives the mystic view of the Redemption, and asserts the immortality of Imagination, or Jesus. Every word here is in the language of the "Prophetic Books," and a full account of these few stanzas would include almost a complete analysis of their symbolic system.

"The Schoolboy" usually included by Blake among the Songs of Innocence, comes in odd contrast from its simplicity. It is mere literature, without symbolism, a picturesque plea for freedom and nothing else. The horn heard on a summer's morn, and attributed to a distant huntsman, was probably a harvest horn such as is still used in the Thames valley to call labourers to the field in the early morning. It is not unlikely that Blake during one of his early country walks heard the horn and not knowing that the hunting season was over, nor seeing where the sound came from, mistakenly assumed that the note proved the existence of the distant huntsman.

In the end Blake utters his favourite claim for poetic inspiration as being a better and truer guide for life than argument and troublesome searchings into natural fact. In his essay on Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims, printed in the Descriptive Catalogue, he describes how, in his own picture, he represents Chaucer riding beside the Clerk of Oxenford "as if the youthful clerk had put himself under the tuition of the mature poet," and adds, "Let the Philosopher always be the servant and scholar of inspiration and all will be happy."


It is not surprising that the different examples of the Songs differ from one another in the colouring of the pictures and of the entire pages of text. During the long space of time between 1789 and 1827, whenever he was in want of money and no employment of engraving or designing presented itself, Blake would tint and sell a volume of the Songs. The earlier in date the slighter, and sometimes the cruder were the tints. There are some exceptions to this, a few early examples being of most delicate beauty. At first the outlines and text were printed in a very dark grey colour, almost black. Then red ink was adopted.

Blake never intended the rough outlines which he prepared as anything but guides to his own hand in colouring the plates. He did not invariably follow them even as guides, but would vary the size of the plate at the edges and alter the less important details to please his own mood. In the great majority of these plates the facsimile here given is from the actual outline as used by Blake. He drew in stopping-out varnish on plain copper or zinc,