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Next, Palamabron gave an 'abstract law'to Pythagoras; then also to Socrates and Plato :
Times rolld on o'er all the sons of men,
* * * The healthy built,
Afterwards as becoming a fruitful source of spiritual corruption :
Then were the churches, hospitals, castles, palaces,
Prior to this, however
Antamon call’d up Leutha from her valleys of delight,
But in the North to Odin, Sotha gave a code of war.
Till a philosophy of five senses was complete !
Under the symbol of the kings of Asia, the Song describes the misery of the old philosophies and despotisms; their bitter lament and prayer that by pestilence and fire the race may be saved ; ‘that a remnant may learn to obey':
The Kings of Asia heard
And the Kings of Asia stood
And the night of delicious songs ?'
Urizen heard their cry :
And stretched his clouds over Jerusalem :
He thunders desolately from the heavens ; Orc rises like a pillar of fire above the Alps,' the earth shrinks, the resurrection of dry bones is described, and the poem concludes.
Orc, that spirit of most volcanic nature whom we hear of so frequently throughout the Prophetic Books,' seems (for a too positive assertion were unwise) to represent the wild energies of nature, and more especially of man : the natural man’ in a state of permanent revolt and protest against the tyranny of Urizen, Theotormon, &c.
Of the illustrations, two are separate pictures occupying the full page; the rest surround and blend with the text in the usual manner; and if they have not all the beauty, they share a full measure of the spirit and force of Blake. The colour is laid on with an impasto which gives an opaque and heavy look to some of them, and the medium being oil, the surface and tints have suffered. Here, as elsewhere, the designs seldom directly embody the subjects of the poem, but are independent though kindred conceptions—the right method perhaps.
As if the artist himself were at length beginning to grow weary, The Book of Ahania (1795), last of this series, is quite unadorned, except by two vignettes, one on the title, the other on the concluding page. The text is neatly engraved in plain black and white, without border or decoration of any kind. There are lines and passages of much force and beauty, but they emerge from surrounding obscurity like lightning out of a cloud :
* And ere a man hath power to say- Behold !
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.'
The first half of the poem is occupied with the dire warfare between Urizen and his rebellious son, Fuzon. Their weapons are thus described :
The broad disk of Urizen upheaved,
But it proves ineffectual against Fuzon's fiery beam :
* * Laughing, it tore through
Wounded and enraged, Urizen prepares a bow formed of the ribs of a huge serpent—'a circle of darkness'—and strung with its sinews, by which Fuzon is smitten down into seeming death. In the midst of the conflict, Ahania, who is called the parted soul of Urizen,' is cast forth :
She fell down, a faint shadow wand'ring
Her lamentation, from which we draw our final extract, fills the concluding portion of the poem :
Ah, Urizen! Love !
I cannot touch his hand,
While intent on the composition and execution of these mystic books, Blake did not neglect the humble task-work which secured him a modest independence. He was at this very time busy on certain plates for a book of travels, Captain J. G. Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam. This work, “illustrated with eighty elegant engravings from drawings made by the author,' was published by Johnson the following year (1796). Of these ‘elegant engravings' Blake executed fourteen; Holloway and Bartolozzi were among those employed for the remainder. Negroes, monkeys, ‘Limes, Capsicums, Mummy-apples, and other natural productions of the country, were the chief subjects which fell to Blake's share.
Also among the fruit of this period should be particularised two prints in which the figures are on a larger scale than in any other engravings by Blake. They are both from his own designs. Under the first is inscribed :--Ezekiel : · Take away from thee the desire of thine eyes. Ezek. xxiv. 17. Painted and Engraved by W. Blake. Oct. 27, 1794. 13, Hercules Buildings. Ezekiel kneels with arms crossed and eyes uplifted in stern and tearless grief, according to God's command : beside him is one of those solemn bowed figures, with hidden face, and hair sweeping the ground, Blake often, and with such powerful effect, introduces : and on a couch in the background lies the shrouded corpse of Ezekiel's wife.
The subject of the other, which corresponds in size and style, is from the Book of Job:— What is man, that thou shouldst try him every moment ?' It possesses a peculiar interest as being the first embodiment of Blake's ideas upon a theme, thirty years later, to be developed in that series of designs,—the Inventions to the Book of Job ; which, taken as a grand harmonious whole, is an instance of rare individual genius, of the highest art with whatever compared, that certainly constitutes his masterpiece. The figure of Job himself, in the early design, is the same as that in the Inventions. But the wife is a totally different conception, being of a hard and masculine type.