[The MS. continues here as follows:

“We have had two in the present century, two magnificent and mighty William Blake and J. M. W. Turner. I do not speak of the average genius of the higher ranks of human mind, of that glitter and play of dominant capacity which in all ages is the adornment and light of each living department of literature and of art. We have seen many of those light waves of the wide human sea, and we shall have their like again in the renewed swelling of its tides. I speak not of them, but of the Great Pharoses of the moving wilderness, those towering and solitary heacons whose tops are seen from above, and beyond the morning cloud and the evening horizon. We have had only two of these built for us; two men who if they had been given to us in a time of law, and of recognized discipline, if they had had either teaching in their youth, or reverence in their manhood, might have placed our age on a level with the proudest periods of creative art. But what have they done for us? The influence of the one is felt as much as the weight of last winter's snow : and that of the other has been so shortened by our dulness, and distorted by our misapprehension, that it may be doubted whether it has wrought among us more of good or of evil.”

The passage is of interest as showing Ruskin's appreciation of Blake (1757-1827) at a time when the cult of the poet-painter had not yet arisen. (Gilchrist's Life did not appear till 1863.) In Modern Painterss, vol. iii. ch. xvi. § 10 n., Ruskin refers to Blake as “sincere, but full of wild creeds and somewhat diseased in brain.” In the Life, 157, his “Book of Job” is included among "Things to be Studied." In the Eagle's Nest, § 21, Blake's poetry is referred to as “the words of a great and wise mind . . . and sometimes giving forth in fiery aphorism some of the most precious words of existing literature.” But he was " driven into discouraged disease” (Ariadne Florentine, Appendix i., where he is again coupled with Turner) ; he lived in “a conscientious agony of beautiful purpose and warped power” (Queen of the Air, § 159), For other references to him, see The Cestus of Aglaia, § § 4, 59, and Fora Clavigera, Letter 74.]


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Last modified 13 July 2010