I have temporarily escaped Manchester’s “tortures of doubt and despair” for a break in the Lake District.
I feel somewhat errant to be in the land famously associated with (among numerous other luminaries) that other Romantic poet called William, but that slightly guilty feeling is probably in itself a sign that a bit of a break from Mr Blake is needed. Indeed, I’ve been feeling a bit fed up with WB recently; I think it’s partly a symptom of focusing on the work of a single person (something to bear in mind for forming a post-doc project), but this is accentuated by the fact that Blake is so prevalent in popular culture so he appears where I’m not even looking for him.
We’re actually staying in a house that was formerly owned by the Wordsworths (bought by WW’s son, also called William, and in the family for about a century). So inevitably, I’ve been thinking a bit about the two Williams. The topic has been addressed, but I decided to leave such books safely in Manchester.
I don’t know if WW had anything to say about WB, but WB owned an annotated a copy of WW’s poems and wasn’t particularly complementary. The two Williams are often characterised as divided by their concepts of Nature, WW celebrating it and WB seeking to transcend it. Some of Blake’s annotations seem to support such a dichotomy; for instance:
WW writes: The powers requisite for the production of poetry are, first, those of observation and description. . . . whether the things depicted be actually present to the senses, or have a place only in the memory
WB replies: One Power alone makes a Poet -Imagination The Divine Vision
On WW’s Poems Referring to the Period of Childhood
WB writes: I see in Wordsworth the Natural Man rising up against the Spiritual Man Continually & then he is No Poet but a Heathen Philosopher at Enmity against all true Poetry or Inspiration
But although WB thinks WW does not embody the Divine Vision, he isn’t anti-Nature (see my post [Romantic] Landscapes at Turner Contemporary). Indeed, one of my favourite passages in Blake is:
This World Is a World of Imagination & Vision I see Every thing I paint In This World, but Every body does not see alike… to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination Nature is Imagination itself. As a man is So he Sees. As the Eye is formed such are its Powers You certainly Mistake when you say that the Visions of Fancy are not be found in This World. To Me This World is all One continued Vision of Fancy or Imagination & I feel Flatterd when I am told So.
So it seems that WB thought that WW didn’t see Nature with eyes of Imagination. Whether he was right, I leave to others who are more qualified to comment.
As for my own view of N/nature here, I’ll offer three (unBlakeanly banal) thoughts: first, I’ll avoid getting caught up in how problematic a term that is; second, it’s as wet as its reputation (see photos below); third, I’m happy that there is wild garlic at the end of the lane, which livened up this evening’s roast chicken.
More (B)Lakean thoughts to follow perhaps.
A measure of the amount of rain since our arrival – here are the stepping stones opposite our cottage yesterday evening:
Here is the same stretch of the river this afternoon: