Page:Life of William Blake 2, Gilchrist.djvu/427

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
323
MYSTERY VERSUS UNDERSTANDING.

such a pencil, such a pen,' few mortals were ever gifted. The combination of high literary power with high pictorial power is one of the rarest endowments, and it is only among the loftiest order of minds—the Michael Angelos, the Leonardos, and the Raffaelles—that its presence is eminently distinguishable, though by them held in check.

The superb original strength of faculty to which the instrument is an accident, and which is able to work in any field, seems to be among Heaven's rarest gifts.

Of Blake's conditions and limitations as a general thinker we shall have afterwards to speak. Thought with him leaned largely to the side of imagery rather than to the side of organised philosophy; and we shall have to be on our guard, while reading the record of his views and opinions, against the dogmatism which was more frequently based on exalted fancies than on the rock of abiding reason and truth. He never dreamed of questioning the correctness of his impressions. To him all thought came with the clearness and veracity of vision. The conceptive faculty, working with a perception of outward facts singularly narrow and imperfect, projected every idea boldly into the sphere of the actual. What he thought, he saw, to all intents and purposes; and it was this sudden and sharp crystallisation of inward notions into outward and visible signs which produced the impression on many beholders, that reason was unseated—a surmise which his biographer regards so seriously as to devote a chapter to the consideration of the question 'Mad or not mad?' If we say on this point at once that, without attempting definitions and distinctions, and while holding his substantial genius in the highest esteem, having long studied both his character and his works, we cannot but, on the whole, lean to the opinion that, somewhere in the wonderful compound of flesh and spirit—somewhere in those recesses where the one runs into the other—he was 'slightly touched,' we shall save ourselves the necessity of attempting to defend certain phases of his work, while maintaining an