William Butler Yeats



William Blake. *



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If the saying, that to be representative is to be famous, have anything of truth, the fame of William Blake should overspread the world; for, just as Shelley is the example from which most men fashion their conception of the poetic temperament, Blake is, to the bulk of students, the most representative of seers, the one in whom the flame is most pure and most continual. Swedenborg had perhaps as great an original genius, but he commingled Biblical commentary and moral argument with his vision; while Boehme, who had possibly a greater genius, was much of a theologian and something of an alchemist; and neithr Swedenborg nor Boehme had an exterior life perfectly dominated and moulded by the interior spirit. I have said that Boehme had possible a greater original genius, not because he seems to me so important to our time, but because he first taught in the modern world the principles which Blake first expressed in the language of poetry; and of these the most important, and the one from which the others spring, in that the imagination is the means whereby we communicate with God. "The word image," says "The Way of Christ," a compilation from Boehme and Law's interpretations of Boehme, published at Bath when Blake was eighteen, "meaneth not only a creaturely resemblance, in which sense man is said to be the Image of God; but it signifieth also a spiritual substance, a birth or effect of a will, wrought in and by a spiritual being or power. And imagination, which we are apt erroneously to consider an airy, idle, and impotent faculty of the human mind, dealing in fiction and roving in phantasy or idea without producing any powerful or permenant, is the magia or power of raising and forming such images or substances, and the greatest power in nature." The proud and lonely spirit of Blake was possessed and upheld by this doctrine, and enabled to face the world with conciousness of a divine mission, for were not the poet and the artist more men of imagination than any others, and therefore more prophets of God? Boehme taught that prayer was the great power which acts upon imagination and thereby "forms and transforms" the souls of men "into everything that its desires reach after." But Blake held the creation of beautiful thoughts or forms or acts to be the greater power, and affirmed that "Christ's apostles were artists," that "Christianity is art," that "the whole business of man is the arts," that the beautiful states of being which the artist in life or thought perceives by his imagination and tries to call up in himself or others "are the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow," and that "the Holy Ghost" is "an intellectual fountain." The old mystics had the words "goodness" and "holiness" much in their mouths, and strained out of its true meaning the saying that "the wisdom of the world is foolishness;" but his cry was, "I care not whether a man is good or bad; all I care is whether he is a wise man or a fool. Go, put of holiness, and put on intellect," and by intellect he meant his reason, his imagination. He was the first to claim for imagination the freedom, which, Mr. Pater has told us, was won for the heart by the Renaissance, and through his unlearned and obscure voice spoke the unborn learning and glory of the modern world. There are some who hold that he who wrote, "grandeur of ideas is founded upon precision of ideas," and whose great word was, according to Palmer, "precision," was a mere child delighting in meaningless words out of sheer love of their sound or their momentary charm; and there are others, and these are perhaps the bulk of idle readers, who will have it that it does not matter whether the "Prophetic Books" had or had not a meaning, for his more charming lyrics are all we need know, as though a philosophy which has blossomed in so many a vived aphorism had not its separate interest. It is to Dr. Garnett' credit that he does not, like some of his predecessors, definitely commit himself to the first theory, though such sentences as, he "could manifestly be as transparent as a crystal when he knew exactly what he wished to say – a remark which may not be useless to the student of mystical and prophetical writings," which is as though one should say, "the songs of Shakespeare are very clear, let us therefore trouble no more over the mystery of Hamlet, for all that was writ at haphazard," is very nearly a committal. He has, however, very definitely pronounced for the second and greater folly by affirming that if Hayley "thought that one page of the 'Poetical Sketches' or the 'Songs of Innocence' was worth many pages of 'Urigen,' apart from the illustrations, he had reason for what he thought," as though one could judge of the value of a book without understanding what it is about; and if the truth be told, Mr. Garnett, like Mr. Gilchrist, Mr. Rossetti, and almost every one who has ever written on the subject, does not show evidence of having ever given so much as a day's study to any part of Blake's mystical writing, or of having anything of the knowledge necessary to make even prolonged study fruitful. This very book of "Urigen" would alone convict commentaters, for they have not even discovered the fact lying upon its threshold, that it is page by page a transformation, according to Blake's peculiar illumination, of the doctrine set forth in the opening chapters of the "Mysterium Magnum" of Jacob Boehme; yet none so certain of their opinion as they, none so sweeping in statement.

These follies, for which he has distinguished precedents, apart, Dr. Garnett has worked modestly and carefully, and produced an essay, which pleasently accompanies some admirable reproductions, of which two are in colour, and which, though it certainly neither throws nor tries to throw new light on anything, yet tells gracefully enough the essential facts of a beautiful life, and enumerates and describes accurately many famous pictures and poems. There is, however, one curious slip which is several times repeated. Dr. Garnett speaks of "Sampson" as a blank verse poem, and regrets that Blake did not write his "Prophetic Books" in a like regular metre, instead of in a loose chant, to the fashioning of which he "may have been influenced by Ossian." "Sampson" was written at a time in which Blake was manifestly "influenced by Ossian," and both written and printed as prose in the "Poetical Sketches." Mr. Garnett has evidently seen the poem in Mr. Rossetti's edition, where it is printed as a kind of irregular blank verse, to show how the cadence of verse clung to Blake's mind even in prose, and has confused it with the fairly regular verse of "Edward the Third"; and if he reads it again he will find that it bears no comparison with the beautiful fluid rhythms of "Thell," and of the best parts of "Vala" and of "The Daughters of Albion." The pity is, not that Blake did not write the "Prophetic Books" in blank verse, but that he did not sustain the level of their finest passages. Despite these and some misunderstandings beside, Dr. Garnett's book may be cordially recommended to all who would learn a little of one of the most creative minds of modern days, for its futilities are wholly, and its errors almost wholly, in the parts where it touches mysticism, and for mysticism the general reader cares naught, nor is it dreadful that he should.



[Fußnote, S. 21]

* "William Blake." By Richard Garnett. The Portfolio (Seeley and Co.)   zurück





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Bookman (London).
Bd. 10, 1896, Nr. 55, April, S. 21.

Gezeichnet: W. B. Yeats.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Bookman (London)   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008883383





Kommentierte Ausgabe






Wade, Allan: A Bibliography of the Writings of W. B. Yeats.
3. Aufl. London: Hart-Davis 1968.

Yeats, William Butler: The Message of the Folk-lorist. In: The Speaker.
Bd. 8, 1893, 19. August, S. 188-189.

Yeats, William Butler: A Symbolical Drama in Paris.
In: The Bookman (London).
Bd. 6, 1894, Nr. 31, April, S. 14-16.

Yeats, William Butler: Irish National Literature. Contemporary Prose Writers.
In: The Bookman (London).
Bd. 8, 1895, Nr. 47, August, S. 138-140.

Yeats, William Butler: Irish National Literature. III. Contemporary Irish Poets.
In: The Bookman (London).
Bd. 8, 1895, Nr. 48, September, S. 167-170.

Yeats, William Butler: Verlaine in 1894.
In: The Savoy. An Illustrated Quarterly.
1896, Nr. 2, April, S. 117-118.
URL: https://archive.org/details/savoy01symo

Yeats, William Butler: William Blake and His Illustrations to the Divine Comedy.
In: The Savoy. An Illustrated Monthly.
Nr. 3, Juli, S. 41-57.
Nr. 4, August, S. 25-41.
Nr. 5, September, S. 31-36.
URL: https://archive.org/details/savoy02symo
W. B. Yeats: Ideas of Good and Evil. London: Bullen 1903, S. 176-225.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001189128

Yeats, William Butler: Academy Portraits. XXXII. – William Blake.
In: The Academy. A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art.
1897, 19. Juni, S. 634-635. [PDF]
W. B. Yeats: Ideas of Good and Evil. London: Bullen 1903,
S. 168-175 (u.d.T. "William Blake and the Imagination").
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001189128

Yeats, William Butler: Introduction.
In: A Book of Images, Drawn by W.T. Horton & Introduced by W.B. Yeats.
London: Unicorn Press 1898, S. 7-16.
URL: https://archive.org/details/bookofimagesdraw00hortuoft
Aufgenommen in:
W. B. Yeats: Ideas of Good and Evil. London: Bullen 1903,
S. 226-236 (u.d.T. "Symbolism in Painting").
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001189128

Yeats, William Butler: The Autumn of the Flesh.
In: Daily Express (Dublin). 1898, 3. Dezember.
W. B. Yeats: Ideas of Good and Evil. London: Bullen 1903,
S. 296-305 (u.d.T. "The Autumn of the Body").
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001189128

Yeats, William Butler: The Wind Among the Reeds.
London: Mathews 1899.
URL: https://archive.org/details/windamongreeds00yeatrich

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URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000677725

Yeats, William Butler: The Symbolism of Poetry.
In: The Dome.
An Illustrated Magazine and Review of Literature, Music, Architecture, and the Graphic Arts.
N.S., Jg. 6, 1900, April, S. 249-257. [PDF]
W. B. Yeats: Ideas of Good and Evil.
London: Bullen 1903, S. 237-256.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001189128

Yeats, William Butler: Ideas of Good and Evil.
London: Bullen 1903.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001189128
URL: https://archive.org/details/ideasofgoodevil00yeatrich  [Second Edition 1903]

Yeats, William Butler: Poems, 1899-1905.
London: Bullen; Dublin: Maunsel 1906.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001776370
URL: https://archive.org/details/poems01yeatgoog

Yeats, William Butler: Poems.
London: T. Fisher Unwin 1912.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009025212
URL: https://archive.org/details/yeatspoems00yeatrich

Yeats, William Butler: The Cutting of an Agate.
New York: The Macmillan company 1912.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001195035

Yeats, William Butler: Essays and Introductions.
London: Macmillan and C. 1961.

Yeats, William Butler: The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats.
Edited by John Kelly u.a.
Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press.
Bd. 1ff. 1986ff.

Yeats, William Butler: Die Gedichte.
Hrsg. von Norbert Hummelt.
Übers. von Marcel Beyer u.a.
München: Luchterhand 2005.

Larrissy, Edward (Hrsg.): The First Yeats.
Poems by W.B. Yeats, 1889 – 1899.
Manchester: FyfieldBooks 2010.





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