Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/169

This page needs to be proofread.


ii s. XL FEB. 20, i9i5.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


THE GREAT HARRY (US. xi. 88). Is the inquirer not confusing this ship with the Mary Rose ? When the French fleet, under Claude Annebaut, Admiral of France, came over to the Isle of Wight in July, 1545, the English fleet was lying at Portsmouth. When getting under way in order to engage the French, the Mary Rose, a ship of 500 tons, suddenly sank. According to Clowes, she " heeled so much when her helm was put hard over that the sills of her lower ports, only 16 inches out of the water ere she heeled at all, were submerged." She thereupon filled, and sank so quickly that all on board, including her captain. Sir George Carew, were carried down with her, except about thirty-five. (See Clowes's ' History of the Royal Navy,' i. 463.) T* ^ D>

"In 1553 the celebrated Henri Grace k Dieu, which had in the meantime been renamed the Edward, was accidentally burnt at Woolwich ; and for many years afterwards there was no ship in the English navy equal to her in size or magni- ficence." W. Laird Clowes in 'Social England' (1902), iii. 300.

A. R. BAYLEY.


on


William Blake, Poet and Mystic. By P. Berger. Authorized Translation from the French by- Daniel H. Conner. (Chapman & Hall, 15s. net.)

THIS is one of the most important books about Blake. It gives us the judgment of a mind thoroughly well-informed as to details of bio- graphy and criticism, sympathetically sensitive towards the poet without being akin to him, and possessing the advantage for amid the redund- ancy of English work on Blake this certainly may strike the English reader as an advantage of approaching the subject, in the first instance, from the native standpoint of another language. A review of the book on its first appearance in French will be found in TheAthencenmfor27 July, 1907. The volume before us contains an excellent bibliography brought up to the year that has just closed.

Blake's mystical " doctrines " are here ex- pounded with all the admirable lucidity cha- racteristic of French literary interpretation. This has not been attained by any sacrifice of fullness, still less by any sacrifice of the atmosphere so imperatively required if, without the aid of the drawings, we are to enter Blake's world feeling that it is a world. We know of no book more suitable than this to be the first for the student of literature who, with some reading behind him, and possessing the general reader's acquaintance with Blake's poems, is now pro- ceeding to get a more thorough knowledge of him. As, enlightened by these" pages, he pro- ce3ds to the Prophetic Books, we should not be surprised if he found it necessarv rather to


diminish than to enhance the sense he ha* acquired of the " reality " of Blake's scheme of the universe.

Prof. Berger seerns to be considerably per- plexed between Blake's system of morality which,, as we all know, was something of the Nietzschean order and the good, law-abiding tenor of his life and conversation. He does not, we think, quite sufficiently bring out what the lives of all mystics of this order make plain the literally enthralling character of the gift of vision. This works in two- wajs. In the first place, excesses, whether of temper or appetite, tend in the end to deteriorate the gift, so that, most distressingly to the visionary,, what was once of a ravishing beauty and majesty: becomes trivial, sordid, doubtful, or horrible. In. the second place, if the precept to reject law and follow desire is to be by the mystic strictly carried out, he can only do so by plunging deeper* and ever deeper into the world of his vision. There his treasure lies. He will easily enough be law- abiding in this world, where nothing attracts him,, and where the setting up of conflict would but hinder him in the desire of his heart. The freer- and more victorious his movement among visions, and the more all-embracing these show themselves to be, the more faithfully, in the only way his. peculiar nature allows, has he acted up to his own- counsels.

Supposing Blake had lived, not in a highly civilized and sophisticated community, but as one of a barbaric, even of a savage people, what would have been his effect upon these his posi- tion among them ? Plausible reasons might be given for expecting the occurrence of such visionary power to be more rather than less frequent among such peoples than in our Western Europe. The writer of these words was once told that in South Africa a certain proportion of the conversions of natives to Christianity are the direct result of visions. Imagine, then, a person so- endowed, unhampered by extraneous authority" to appeal to or reconcile himself with would he not impart his system, as it grew up within him,. convincingly to his neighbours ? Might he not even teach them names of spirits and other agencies, deriving these from imagination jusfc as are derived so many of the names of Blake's spiritual entities ? Who can say that we have not here as necessary an element in the origin of mythologies as popular beliefs about, and observations of, natural phenomena ? There is a curious daemonic quality, for example, in the older Greek stories, a, violence and dreadful weight of cryptic meaning which bears an extra- ordinary resemblance to Blake's creations. No- doubt a sense of shuddering awe, of horror and mystery unexplained, may be common to a group of men, but, seeing that Blake himself was virtually unique in his generation, and that persons who even slightly resemble him are everywhere rare,, we may doubt whether the vivid, firmly-outlined expression of mystery in form and act caa- ever, at its very origin, have been the work- perhaps one should say the vision of more than one mind. We cannot, for example, tell the relation to reality of Hades and Demeter and Persephone any more clearly than that of Los and Enitharmon ; but, despite the working-over of generations of worshippers and artists and poets, these old Greek figures seem to retain some- thing of that secret glow, that hardly expressible