Page:Life of William Blake 2, Gilchrist.djvu/429

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THOUGHT IN PAINTING.

validity of the mystery, yet expresses the strong views of a man of practical power. 'I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.' We confess that we can never glance at the wild mysteries of Thel and Urizen and Jerusalem without a frequent recurrence of this somewhat depreciatory phrase, 'ten thousand words in an unknown tongue;' and while acknowledging that 'howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries,' being strongly disposed to advance our sling-stone of 'five' against the Goliath of 'ten thousand.' It seems to us, also, that there is something misleading in the vague use of the words 'practice and opportunity.' The value of the old phrase 'practice makes perfect,' depends on what we mean by practice; as we take it, it means the doing again and again of the same kind of thing till we do it rightly; and opportunity is here to be understood as the presentation of appropriate and available means. Form, colour, light and shade, and composition, are the dictionary, the syntax, and the prosody of painting. The thought, the central idea of the picture, corresponds to its realisation, as thinking in words does to grammar. If dictionaries are of no use, and grammar has no relation to thought, then the details of the human or any other form have no relation to painting. Indeed, to deny this is to create a ridiculous paradox, which one may readily illustrate from the works of Blake himself. What his inner eye may see in the rising sun it is not for us to determine, but he has drawn most pathetically in the drama of Job both rising and retreating suns. It is true that he has not made them about the size of 'a guinea,' rather their arc spans the gloomy horizon like a rainbow; but it is the segment of a circle—why did he not draw it square or pyramidal? In order to draw at all he was obliged to conform at least to one fact of nature; and, so far as he followed her at all, she did not 'put him out,' as Fuseli affirmed that nature did for him likewise. The case in which he has carried realistic