Friday, May 04, 2012


Pierre Berger, Professor of English Language and Literature in the Lycee and Lecturer in the University of Bordeaux, wrote his biography of William Blake in French. William Blake, poet and mystic, was released in 21 editions in English and French between 1907 and 1973. It is available now as a Google book in several formats. In his introduction Berger enthusiastically remarks on Blake's unique contribution to the Romantic movement
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
'Truths, which Eternity lets fall on man'

On page 16 Berger writes:
"Now, on the contrary, let us imagine a man who, before the advent of even the romantic school, should have gone further than romanticism was ever to go ; who felt intuitively that inspiration and poetic vision, which had disappeared since Milton, must take complete possession of literature again; who was seized by an uncontrollable anger against the despotic nature of reason and common sense; who would wage fierce war against them, casting them forever into the waters of oblivion. Imagine a man who, at the moment when classic art was universally admired, and altars were dedicated to Reason, dared to proclaim the worthlessness of Greece and Rome, and exalt the art of the Middle Ages, that Gothic art which is " living form "; a man who despised logic and common sense, declared his most fantastic visions to be eternal realities, and regarded them as divine; who had revived the ancient saying, Credo quia absurdum, and believed in nothing but what we call absurd; who, with frank assurance, declared that there is but one truth, that of mystic vision; one God, poetical insight; one form of worship, that of the imagination; one ideal only, a liberty without laws.
Let us again imagine this man preaching such doctrines as these, and applying them to his art with an intensity which was near to madness, till he robbed his works of their poetry and their art—this despiser of Reason, this apostle of the absurd, this wandering visionary, precursor of the Romanticists and more romantic than any of them —this man was William Blake, an absolutely unique personality, the strange product of his age, and the prophet of the age to come; obscure to his contemporaries from his very earnestness, and hardly comprehensible even to us who have seen in its completeness the movement of which he represented, in advance, the final and culminating point.
During the last twenty years of the eighteenth century, Burns and Blake were the only poets whose lyrical songs recalled the spontaneity and freedom of the Elizabethan poetry, and who proclaimed unmistakably the tone which was to sound so richly in the work of the great poets who marked the beginning of the romantic period.
Both men gave their first poems to the world about the same time. Blake's Poetical Sketches belong to 1783, the year of Crabbe's Village, and two years earlier than Cowper's Task. His Songs of Innocence appeared in 1789, whilst Burns's first poems, in the Kilmarnock edition, had been read all over England for three years past. There were still nine years to wait before the appearance of the Lyrical Ballads, which mark the birth of romanticism in poetry.
But these two forerunners of genius were distinct from their age. They did not draw their inspiration from the same sources as their contemporaries. They could not have painted the elegant dwellers of the town, with their veiled ambitions and their false love affairs; nor could they describe the intrigues of court life, nor grow indignant over a cultivated corruption which did not touch them. They both could sing of nature; and they did so. But they were not tired spirits who sought, as did their contemporaries, to forget the cares of the world. They could rejoice in nature without contrasting it with the rush of social life, or seeking to heighten its flavour by some artificially rustic idyll played by fashionable nymphs and lovers. They could not linger over the theories dear to the philosophers of their epoch, nor minutely analyse that abstraction which, as reasonable humanity, their century knew so well, and which Pope had declared to be the most proper study for mankind. Neither of them expressed the thoughts and emotions of others; they sang only for themselves, and fed their lyrical powers from their own individuality."

On Virgil, (E 270)
"Rome & Greece swept Art into their maw & destroyd it     a
Warlike State never can produce Art.  It will Rob & Plunder &
accumulate into one place, & Translate & Copy & Buy & Sell &
Criticise, but not Make.
  Mathematic Form is Eternal in the Reasoning Memory.  Living
Form is Eternal Existence.
  Grecian is Mathematic Form
  Gothic is Living Form"

Annotations to Bacon, (E621)
 "Self Evident Truth is one Thing and Truth the result of
Reasoning is another Thing Rational Truth is not the Truth of
Christ but of Pilate   It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good &

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