Saturday, November 02, 2013


Blake valued Wordsworth's works highly enough to study them carefully and to write comments in two of his books. He found that he could not agree with Wordsworth view that the appreciation of Nature led to spiritual consciousness.
Annotations to Wordsworth's Poems, (E 665)  
Wordsworth on page 44:
" Influence of Natural Objects 
     Incalling forth and strengthening the Imagination 
     in Boyhood and early Youth."

"Natural Objects always did & now do Weaken deaden &
obliterate Imagination in Me  Wordsworth must know that what he
Writes Valuable is Not to be found in Nature Read Michael Angelos
Sonnet vol 2 p. 179"
Wordsworth was quite familiar with the poem from Michelangelo to which Blake referred; he had translated it himself from the Italian to English poetry. Blake finds in the poem affirmation that the spiritual world is primary, that the natural world derives its meaning from the spiritual world and not the reverse. Wordsworth's expressed dependence on the world of nature for inspiration was repugnant to Blake because Nature to him obscured and distorted the visionary experience which he enjoyed.

The Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist provides the poem which Blake cited:

Miscellaneous Poems, Michael Angelo
"No mortal object did these eyes behold
When first they met the placid light of thine,
And my Soul felt her destiny divine,
And hope of endless peace in me grew bold:
Heaven-born, the Soul a heavenward course must hold;
Beyond the visible world she soars to seek
(For what delights the sense is false and weak)
Ideal Form, the universal mould.
The wise man, I affirm, can find no rest
In that which perishes: nor will he lend
His heart to aught which doth on time depend.
'Tis sense, unbridled will, and not true love,
That kills the soul: love betters what is best,
Even here below, but more in heaven above."

British Museum

Caption for the picture in the British Museum:
"Adapted by Blake after a figure painted by Michelangelo in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican, known to Blake through prints. Almost wholly engraved - very few etched lines. The plate is dated 1773, which is the date of the first state (the earliest known print designed and engraved by Blake). Substantially reworked for the second state c1810-20."

From Engravings of William Blake by Archibald Russell on page 53 we read:
"The figure of Joseph is derived from that on the extreme right, in front, of Michelangelo's fresco of the Crucifixion of St. Peter in the Vatican."   

Legend on second version of image:

"JOSEPH of Arimathea among The Rocks of Albion
     Engraved by W Blake 1773 from an old Italian Drawing 
     This is One of the Gothic Artists who Built the Cathedrals
in what we call the Dark Ages    Wandering about in sheep skins &
goat skins of  whom  the World was not worthy   such were the
Christians in all Ages
     Michael Angelo Pinxit 

 [on a proof of the early state of the plate]
     Engraved when I was a beginner at Basires from a drawing by
Salviati after Michael Angelo"

Blake's comment on the final paragraph of the 1818 edition of Wordsworth's Poems gave him the opportunity further to express his thoughts on the contrast between Memory and Imagination, between the Natural Man and the Spiritual Man.

Annotations to Wordsworth's Poems, (E 666)  

[Page 375, final paragraph]  
Wordsworth: ". . . if [the Writer] were not
persuaded that the Contents of these Volumes . . . evinced
something of the "Vision and the Faculty divine," . . . he would
not, if a wish could do it, save them from immediate

Blake: "It appears to me as if the last Paragraph beginning With "Is
it the result" Was writ by another hand & mind from the rest of
these Prefaces.  Perhaps they are the opinions of Sr G Beaumont a
Landscape Painter [to whom the book was dedicated] 
Imagination is the Divine Vision not of The
World nor of Man nor from Man as he is a Natural Man but only as
he is a Spiritual Man Imagination has nothing to do with Memory"

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