Friday, December 14, 2012

Blake's Source 5

Homer and his works appear in many of our posts.  Perhaps the most compelling one is The Cave and the Sea, a part of which I shamelessly copy here:

"Unquestionably the Bible was Blake's main source in developing his primary myth of creation, fall, regeneration (or redemption) and return. However he was fully capable of using other sources, and in The Sea of Time and Space he drew primarily upon Homer (and Plato).

(In Kathleen Raines' book Blake and Tradition she gave a good interpretation of the Cave of the Nymphs as used by Blake.)  A condensation of Raines' great work may be found at Blake and Antiquity;  it contains considerable stuff on the Sea of Time and Space."

 Three things stand out prominently in this wonderful picture. Read The Cave and the Sea to see how beautifully Blake called on Homer.

Recourse to the Concordance shows 28 references to Homer. 
He shows up in 6 letters: 1 to Trusler,  2 to Butts and 3 to Hayley

In a letter to Trusler he wrote:
"The wisest of the Ancients considerd what is not
too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction because it rouzes the   faculties to act. I name Moses Solomon Esop Homer Plato"
Further along in the letter we read:
"To Me This World is all One continued
Vision of Fancy or Imagination & I feel Flatterd when I am told
So. What is it sets Homer Virgil & Milton in so high a rank of  Art."    

Here are extracts from the two letters to Butts:
Letter 22:
in a letter to the Revd Mr Gilpin author of a work on
Picturesque Scenery he {Blake rarely had anything

good to say about the 'he' here, Sir Joshua Reynolds}
says Thus "It may be worth consideration
whether the epithet Picturesque is not applicable to the
excellencies of the inferior Schools rather than to the higher.
The works of Michael Angelo Rafael &/c appear to me to have
nothing of it: whereas Rubens & the Venetian Painters may almost
be said to have Nothing Else.--Perhaps Picturesque is somewhat
synonymous to the word Taste which we should think improperly
applied to Homer or Milton but very well to Prior or Pope. I
suspect that the application of these words are to Excellencies
of an inferior order."

(For once Blake here seems to agree with Sir Joshua.)   

Letter 26:
(Here Blake is telling Butts about his activities during his three
years at Felpham)
for I have in these three years composed an immense number
of verses on One Grand Theme Similar to Homers Iliad or Miltons
Paradise Lost  

Letter 44 (Erdman 749) to Hayley:
Blake is telling Hayley what he had done about Flaxman's Homer:
"the price I received for engraving Flaxman's outlines of Homer 
is five guineas each."
(The relationships among these three men (Blake, Flaxman, and Hayley is interesting and significant.)

I think that Homer is bombast & Shakespeare is too wild & Milton from An Island in the Moon; (E455)

That mankind are in a less distinguishd situation with regard to mind than they were in the time of Homer Socrates Phidias. Glycon. Aristotle &c let all their works witness [the Deists] say that Christianity put a stop to improvement & the Bishop has not shewn the contrary
(Annotations to Watson; E615)
 Read the Edda of Iceland the Songs of Fingal the accounts of North American Savages (as they are calld) Likewise Read Homers Iliad. he was certainly a Savage in the Bishops sense.  
(Annotations to Watson; E615)

Annotations to Boyd's Historical Notes on Dante (E633):
 we cannot sympathise with Achilles for the loss of his Mistress, when we feel that he gained her by the massacre of her family.</!WB> nobody considers these things while they read Homer or Shakespear or Dante.....

 If Homers merit was only in these Historical combinations & Moral sentiments he would be no better than Clarissa ..... It is a contest between barbarians, equally guilty of injustice, rapine, and bloodshed; and we are not sorry to see the vengeance of Heaven equally inflicted on both parties.

Milton Preface E95:
 The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato & Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice against the Sublime of the Bible.

I am no Homers Hero you all know

I profess not Generosity to a Foe
My Generosity is to my Friends
That for their Friendship I may make amends
The Generous to Enemies promotes their Ends
And becomes the Enemy & Betrayer of his Friends
( Notebook  E502)                                     

Descriptive Catalog E531:
The Artist has endeavoured to emulate the grandeur of those seen in his vision, and to apply it to modern Heroes, on a smaller scale. No man can believe that either Homer's Mythology, or Ovid's, were the production of Greece, or of Latium;

Public Address E572:
(This extract points to the problem Blake had with Flaxman, who had been his friend in earlier times, but whom at this point Blake felt that Flaxman was cheating him.):
Flaxman cannot deny that one of the very first Monuments he did I gratuitously designd for him how much of his Homer & Dante he will allow to be mine I do not know as he went far enough off to Publish them even to Italy. but the Public will know & Posterity will know

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