He paints in water colours, marvellous
strange pictures, visions of his brain which he asserts that he has seen. They
have great merit. He has seen the old Welch bards on Snowdon - he has seen the
Beautifullest, the Strongest, & the Ugliest Man, left alone from the
Massacre of the Britons by the Romans, & has painted them from memory....and
asserts them to be as good as the figures of Raphael and Angelo, but not better,
as they had precisely the same retro-visions & prophetic visions with
himself. The painters in Oil...he affirms to have been the ruin of art, and
affirms that all the while he was engaged in his water-paintings, Titian was
disturbing him, Titian the Ill Genius of Oil Painting. His Pictures, one in
particular, the Canterbury Pilgrims...have great merit, but hard, dry, yet with
grace....There is one (poem) to a Tiger, which I have heard recited, beginning
Tiger, Tiger burning bright
Thro' the deserts of the Night,
which is glorious. But alas! I have not the Book, for the man is flown, whither I know not, to Hades or the Mad House-but I must look on him as one of the most extraordinary persons of the age.
Charles Lamb, Letter the Bernard Bartram, May 15, 1824
Beside these lyric compositions, Mr.
Blake has given several specimens of blank verse. Here, as might be expected,
his personifications are bold, his thoughts orginal, and his style of writing
altogether epic in its structure. The unrestrained measure, however, which
should warn the poet to restrain himself, has not unfrequently betrayed him into
so wild a pursuit of fancy, as to leave harmony unregarded, and to pass the line
prescribed by criticism to the career of imagination.