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WILLIAM BLAKE AND HIS ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE DIVINE COMEDY

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The Database of Ornament

                                          II. HIS OPINIONS ON DANTE

    AS Blake sat bent over the great drawing-book, in which he
made his designs to “The Divine Comedy,” he was very
certain that he and Dante represented spiritual states which
face one another in an eternal enmity. Dante, because a
great poet, was “inspired by the Holy Ghost” ; but his
inspiration was mingled with a certain philosophy, blown
up out of his age, which Blake held for mortal and the enemy of immortal
things, and which from the earliest times has sat in high places and ruled the
world. This philosophy was the philosophy of soldiers, of men of the world,
of priests busy with government, of all who, because of their absorption in
active life, have been persuaded to judge and to punish ; and partly also,
he admitted, the philosophy of Christ ; who, in descending into the world, had
to take on the world ; who, in being born of Mary, a symbol of the law in
Blake’s symbolic language, had to ” take after his mother,” and drive the
money-changers out of the Temple. Opposed to this was another philosophy,
not made by men of action, drudges of time and space, but by Christ when
wrapped in the divine essence, and by artists and poets, who are taught by the
nature of their craft to sympathize with all living things, and who, the more
pure and fragrant is their lamp, pass the further from all limitations, to come
at last to forget good and evil in an absorbing vision of the happy and the
unhappy. The one philosophy was worldly, and established for the ordering
of the body and the fallen will, and, so long as it did not call its “laws of
prudence” “the laws of God,” was a necessity, because “you cannot have
liberty in this world without what you call moral virtue” ; the other was
divine, and established for the peace of the imagination and the unfallen will,
and, even when obeyed with a too literal reverence, could make men sin against
no higher principality than prudence. He called the followers of the first

26                              THE SAVOY

philosophy pagans, no matter by what name they knew themselves ; because
the pagans, as he understood the word pagan, believed more in the outward
life, and in what he called “war, princedom, and victory,” than in the secret
life of the spirit : and the followers of the second philosophy Christians,
because only those whose sympathies had been enlarged and instructed by
art and poetry could obey the Christian command of unlimited forgiveness.
Blake had already found this “pagan” philosophy in Swedenborg, in Milton,
in Wordsworth, in Sir Joshua Reynolds, in many persons, and it had
roused him so constantly and to such angry paradox, that its overthrow
became the signal passion of his life, and filled all he did and thought
with the excitement of a supreme issue. Its kingdom was bound to grow
weaker so soon as life began to lose a little in crude passion and naive
tumult ; but Blake was the first to announce its successor, and he did
this, as must needs be with revolutionists who also have “the law” for
“mother,” with so firm a conviction that the things his opponents held white
were indeed black, and the things they held black indeed white ; with so strong
a persuasion that all busy with government are men of darkness and “some-
thing other than human life” ; with such a fluctuating fire of stormy paradox,
that his phrases seem at times to foreshadow those French mystics who have
taken upon their shoulders the overcoming of all existing things, and say
their prayers “to Lucifer, son of the morning, derided of priests and of kings.”
The kingdom that was passing was, he held, the kingdom of the Tree of
Knowledge ; the kingdom that was coming was the kingdom of the Tree of
Life : men who ate from the Tree of Knowledge wasted their days in anger
against one another, and in taking one another captive in great nets ; men
who sought their food among the green leaves of the Tree of Life condemned
none but the unimaginative and the idle, and those who forget that even
love and death and old age are an imaginative art.

    In these opposing kingdoms is the explanation of the petulant sayings he
wrote on the margins of the great sketch-book, and of those others, still more
petulant, which Crabb Robinson has treasured in his diary. The sayings about
the forgiveness of sins have no need of further explanation, and are in contrast
with the attitude of that excellent commentator, Herr Hettinger, who, though
Dante swooned from pity at the tale of Francesca, will only “sympathize” with
her “to a certain extent,” being taken in a theological net. “It seems as if
Dante,” Blake wrote, “supposes God was something superior to the Father of
Jesus ; for if he gives rain to the evil and the good, and his sun to the just and
the unjust, he can never have builded Dante’s Hell, nor the Hell of the Bible,

This halftone reproduction of a water-colour drawing by Blake for Dante’s                  Inferno is in landscape orientation. The image shows a scene of a burning                  mausoleum with four figures in the foreground in the circle of Hell reserved for                  heretics. Dante stands on the far left of the foreground facing the viewer, but                  with his head turned to face to the figures emerging from the flames. He is                  wearing a plain long and loose robe. To his right is a slab tilted up to reveal an                  opening in the surface that he is standing on. The opening has flames rising out.                  Just behind the slab is a series of three more flames. To the right of the opening                  is another standing, robed figure, possibly Farinata rising out of the tomb. His                  body is facing the viewer, but turned slightly to the right. His left hand is open                  and raised out in front with his elbow bent at a ninety degree angle. He has his                  right arm tucked just behind his back. his head is tilted down to look at the man                  below to the right, who is emerging out of a second fiery pit. Only his upper body                  is visible. He is turned towards the left and iis wearing a partially visible                  armoured shirt, with flames licking the front. He has on a helmet too. His left                  hand in resting on the ground and his right hand is raised towards the man                  standing to his direct left, with the middle and pointer fingers extended separate                  from each other and the rest of the fingers. He has a long white beard and tufts                  of white hair on his head protrude out from the front of his helmet. To the right                  of this man is another man who is deeper in the same pit, only showing his                  shoulders and head. He is facing the viewer, but his head is turned towards the                  figures to his left. His hands are gripped onto the edge of the surface. He has a                  white beard and white hair. His eyes are wide and his mouth is downturned. Behind                  these four figures is a castle wall with rectangular merlon and embrasure rise and                  falls along the top edge. The wall is parallel to the bottom edge of the image                  from the left side until about the centre and then starts to recede back angled up                  to the right. Behind the castle wall on the right side of the background is a dark                  hill. In the very background, essentially the top quarter of the page, is a                  skyline of a town. There are about six building roofs along the horizon that are                  visible. In front of the building roofs is a line of flames. Behind that part of                  the scene is a cloud, dark sky. In the bottom right corner there is the text:                  “HELL [caps] Canto 10”. The image is surrounded by a single black line                  border.

    BLAKE’S ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE DIVINE COMEDY     29

as our parsons explain it. It must have been framed by the dark spirit itself,
and so I understand it.” And again, “Whatever task is of vengeance and
whatever is against forgiveness of sin is not of the Father but of Satan, the
accuser, the father of Hell.” And again, and this time to Crabb Robinson,
“Dante saw devils where I saw none. I see good only.” “I have never
known a very bad man who had not something very good about him.”
This forgiveness was not the forgiveness of the theologian who has received a
commandment from afar off; but of the mystical artist-legislator who believes
he has been taught, in a mystical vision, that “the imagination is the man him-
self,” and believes he has discovered in the practice of his art, that without a
perfect sympathy there is no perfect imagination, and therefore no perfect life.
At another moment he called Dante, “an atheist, a mere politician busied
about this world, as Milton was, till, in his old age, he returned to God whom
he had had in his childhood.” “Everything is atheism,” he had already
explained, “which assumes the reality of the natural and unspiritual world.”
Dante, he held, assumed its reality when he made obedience to its laws
the condition of man’s happiness hereafter, and he set Swedenborg beside
Dante in misbelief for calling Nature, “the ultimate of Heaven,” a lowest rung,
as it were, of Jacob’s ladder, instead of a net woven by Satan to entangle
our wandering joys and bring our hearts into captivity. There are certain
curious unfinished diagrams scattered here and there among the now separated
pages of the sketch-book, and of these there is one which, had it had all its
concentric rings filled with names, would have been a systematic exposition of
his animosities, and of their various intensity. It represents Paradise, and in
the midst, where Dante emerges from the earthly Paradise, is written,
“Homer,” and in the next circle, “Swedenborg,” and on the margin these
words : “Everything in Dante’s Paradise shows that he has made the earth the
foundation of all, and its goddess Nature, memory,” memory of sensation, “not
the Holy Ghost. . . . Round Purgatory is Paradise, and round Paradise
vacuum. Homer is the centre of all, I mean the poetry of the heathen.” The
statement that round Paradise is vacuum is a proof of the persistence of his
ideas and of his curiously literal understanding of his own symbols ; for
it is but another form of the charge made against Milton many years
before in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” “In Milton the Father is
destiny, the son a ratio of the five senses,” Blake’s definition of the reason
which is the enemy of the imagination, “and the Holy Ghost vacuum.”
Dante, like the Kabalists, symbolized the highest order of created beings by
the fixed stars, and God by the darkness beyond them, the Primum Mobile.

30                              THE SAVOY

Blake, absorbed in his very different vision, in which God took always a human
shape, believed that to think of God under a symbol drawn from the outer
world was in itself idolatry ; but that to imagine Him as an unpeopled im-
mensity was to think of Him under the one symbol furthest from His essence;
it being a creation of the ruining reason, “generalizing” away ” the minute
particulars of life.” Instead of seeking God in the deserts of time and space, in
exterior immensities, in what he called “the abstract void,” he believed that the
further he dropped behind him memory of time and space, reason builded
upon sensation, morality founded for the ordering of the world ; and the more
he was absorbed in emotion ; and, above all, in emotion escaped from the impulse
of bodily longing and the restraints of bodily reason, in artistic emotion ; the
nearer did he come to Eden’s “breathing garden,” to use his beautiful phrase,
and to the unveiled face of God. No worthy symbol of God existed but the
inner world, the true humanity, to whose various aspects he gave many names,
“Jerusalem,” “Liberty,” “Eden,” “The Divine Vision,” “The Body of God,”
“The Human Form Divine,” “The Divine Members,” and whose most intimate
expression was Art and Poetry. He always sang of God under this symbol :

                        For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
                          Is God Our Father dear ;
                        And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
                          Is man, His child and care.

                        For Mercy has a human heart ;
                          Pity a human face ;
                        And Love, the human form divine,
                          And Peace, the human dress.

                        Then every man of every clime,
                          That prays in his distress,
                        Prays to the human form divine—
                          Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

Whenever he gave this symbol a habitation in space he set it in the sun, the
father of light and life ; and set in the darkness beyond the stars, where light
and life die away, Og and Anak and the giants that were of old, and the
iron throne of Satan.

    By thus contrasting Blake and Dante by the light of Blake’s paradoxical
wisdom, and as though there was no great truth hung from Dante’s beam of
the balance, I but seek to interpret a little-understood philosophy rather
than one incorporate in the thought and habits of Christendom. Every
philosophy has half its truth from times and generations ; and to us one half

This halftone reproduction of Blake’s engraving for Dante’s Inferno is in                  landscape orientation. The image shows four figures in hell; three on the left                  watch a fourth on the right being attacked by a serpent. On the far left are two                  robed figures, likely Dante and Virgil. The first figure on the left is standing                  in the foreground and rises to three-quarters up the page in height. The figure,                  likely Dante, is wearing a long and dark robe. His body is facing the viewer with                  his head turned towards the right, giving a three-quarters profile. His hands are                  raised up at a ninety degree angle with his palms facing the viewer. His eyes look                  towards the snake attacking the naked figure to his right. There is a second robed                  man standing behind and to the right of the first. He is visible in profile, with                  his face looking to the right toward the serpent attacking the naked man (Buoso                  Donati). To the right of the two robed figures are two naked men. The first stands                  close to the robed pair, with his body facing the viewer, but his head is turned                  to look down at the snake on the ground. His right leg is crossed in front of his                  left leg and his toes are pointed in to face each other. He has short curly hair.                  His left arm is pulled across his body, with his left hand resting on his right                  shoulder. His right arm is pulled behind his back. To the right of him on the                  ground is the serpent. It is scaled and its body is twisted in a loop, with the                  head and tail on the right. The serpent has its head lifted to look up at a naked                  figure standing to its right. The snake’s head is long and the mouth is open with                  smoke rising out of it in puffs up and to the right. The naked figure to the right                  of the snake is standing with the body facing the viewer. The male figure is in a                  defensive posture, with the right leg lifted slightly, pulled away from the                  serpent. The figure’s arms are lifted in front in a ninety degree angle. The                  figure’s upper body is leaned down towards the serpent, with the face turned to                  look down at it, his mouth is opened in an “o” shape. The figure has spiked hair                  on the top of the head with longer pieces falling down the back. The ground on                  which all of the figures and snake rest is flat and plain, with a small design of                  rocky ground under the feet of the robed men. In the mid-ground is more flat land                  with intermittent pieces of jagged rock. There is also another snake or serpent in                  the mid-ground to the left of the one in the foreground. This snake is facing to                  the left and stretched out in a long horizontal line. At the halfway point up the                  height of the page is the start of the skyline. The background is made of clouds                  along the top edge of the page, with jagged lines rising up in the left                  background. Waved vertical lines are appear intermittently in the distant                  background.

    BLAKE’S ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE DIVINE COMEDY     33

of the philosophy of Dante is less living than his poetry ; while the truth
Blake preached, and sang, and painted, is the root of the cultivated life, of the
fragile perfect blossom of the world born in ages of leisure and peace, and
never yet to last more than a little season ; the life those Phæacians—who told
Odysseus that they had set their hearts in nothing but in “the dance, and
changes of raiment, and love and sleep”—lived before Poseidon heaped a
mountain above them ; the lives of all who, having eaten of the tree of life,
love, more than the barbarous ages when none had time to live, “the minute
particulars of life,” the little fragments of space and time, which are wholly
flooded by beautiful emotion because they are so little they are hardly of
time and space at all. “Every space smaller than a globule of man’s blood,”
he wrote, “opens into eternity of which this vegetable earth is but a shadow.”
And again, “Every time less than a pulsation of the artery is equal in its
tenor and value to six thousand years, for in this period the poet’s work is
done, and all the great events of time start forth, and are conceived : in such a
period, within a moment, a pulsation of the artery.” Dante, indeed, taught,
in the “Purgatorio,” that sin and virtue are alike from love, and that love is
from God ; but this love he would restrain by a complex external law, a
complex external Church. Blake, upon the other hand, cried scorn upon the
whole spectacle of external things, a vision to pass away in a moment, and
preached the cultivated life, the internal Church which has no laws but beauty,
rapture, and labour. “I know of no other Christianity, and of no other
gospel, than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the divine arts
of imagination, the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is
but a faint shadow, and in which we shall live in our eternal or imaginative
bodies when these vegetable mortal bodies are no more. The Apostles knew
of no other gospel. What are all their spiritual gifts ? What is the divine
spirit ? Is the Holy Ghost any other than an intellectual fountain ? What is
the harvest of the gospel and its labours ? What is the talent which it is a curse
to hide ? What are the treasures of heaven which we are to lay up for our-
selves ? Are they any other than mental studies and performances ? What
are all the gifts of the gospel, are they not all mental gifts ? Is God a spirit
who must be worshipped in spirit and truth ? And are not the gifts of the
spirit everything to man ? O ye religious ! discountenance every one among
you who shall pretend to despise art and science. I call upon you in the
name of Jesus ! What is the life of man but art and science ? Is it meat
and drink ? Is not the body more than raiment ? What is mortality but the
things relating to the body which dies ? What is immortality but the things

34                              THE SAVOY

relating to the spirit which lives eternally ? What is the joy of Heaven but
improvement in the things of the spirit ? What are the pains of Hell but
ignorance, idleness, bodily lust, and the devastation of the things of the
spirit ? Answer this for yourselves, and expel from among you those who
pretend to despise the labours of art and science, which alone are the labours
of the gospel. Is not this plain and manifest to the thought ? Can you think
at all, and not pronounce heartily that to labour in knowledge is to build
Jerusalem, and to despise knowledge is to despise Jerusalem and her builders ?
And remember, he who despises and mocks a mental gift in another, calling it
pride, and selfishness, and sin, mocks Jesus, the giver of every mental gift,
which always appear to the ignorance-loving hypocrites as sins. But that
which is sin in the sight of cruel man is not sin in the sight of our kind God.
Let every Christian as much as in him lies engage himself openly and publicly
before all the world in some mental pursuit for the building of Jerusalem.” I
have given the whole of this long passage, because, though the very keystone
of his thought, it is little known, being sunk, like nearly all of his most
profound thoughts, in the mysterious prophetic books. Obscure about much
else, they are always lucid on this one point, and return to it again and
again. “I care not whether a man is good or bad,” are the words they put
into the mouth of God, “all that I care is whether he is a wise man or a fool.
Go put off holiness and put on intellect.” This cultivated life, which seems to us
so artificial a thing, is really, according to them, the laborious re-discovery of
the golden age, of the primeval simplicity, of the simple world in which Christ
taught and lived, and its lawlessness is the lawlessness of Him “who being
all virtue acted from impulse, and not from rules,”

                                      And his seventy disciples sent
                                      Against religion and government.

    The historical Christ was indeed no more than the supreme symbol of the
artistic imagination, in which, with every passion wrought to perfect beauty by
art and poetry, we shall live, when the body has passed away for the last time ;
but before that hour man must labour through many lives and many deaths.
“Men are admitted into heaven, not because they have curbed and governed their
passions, but because they have cultivated their understandings. The treasures
of heaven are not negations of passion, but realities of intellect, from which the
passions emanate, uncurbed in their eternal glory. The fool shall not enter
into heaven, let him be ever so holy. Holiness is not the price of entering
into heaven. Those who are cast out are all those who, having no passions of

This halftone reproduction of Blake’s water-colour drawing for Dante’s                  Purgatory is in portrait orientation. The image shows a rocky mountain on the left                  with sea and a sky on the right. The mountain is being climbed two male figures,                  Dante and Virgil. One figure higher up beckons towards another figure who is                  ascending. The mountain is comprised of many large rocks. The climbing figure has                  his back to the viewer and is wearing dark pants and a loose, dark long-sleeve                  shirt. The figure’s right arm is extended up and to the right, reaching to the top                  of a chunk of rock. His right foot is drawn back, and his left hand is resting                  down on a rock to the left. This figure has light hair that falls to just below                  the shoulders. At three-quarters of the height of the page is the other figure.                  This figure is facing the viewer, and standing on one rock with just their left                  foot. The figure’s right leg is bent up and the right foot is resting on a higher                  rock. The figure’s left arm is down by his side. The figure’s right arm is lifted                  straight up and to the right of his head. The figure is wearing a transparent robe                  that flows around the body. HIs head is tilted down slightly to look at the water                  below to the right on the page. There is more rock rising above and to the left                  behind him. In the background is the sky, with one large circle representing the                  sun or moon in the centre of the sky and a trail of dark mist is in front and                  across it. To the right of the mountain and from the mid-height of the page down                  is wavy and dark water of the sea. The top half of the page behind the sun is open                  sky. In the centre of the foreground on top of the bottom of the rocky mountain is                  text that reads:: “Purgatory // Canto 4”.

    BLAKE’S ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE DIVINE COMEDY     37

their own, because no intellect, have spent their lives in curbing and governing
other people’s by the various arts of poverty and cruelty of all kinds. The
modern Church crucifies Christ with the head downwards. Woe, woe, woe to
you hypocrites.” After a time man has “to return to the dark valley whence
he came and begin his labours anew,” but before that return he dwells in the free-
dom of imagination, in the peace of “the divine image,” “the divine vision,” in
the peace that passes understanding, and is the peace of art. “I have been very
near the gates of death,” Blake wrote in his last letter, “and have returned very
weak and an old man, feeble and tottering, but not in spirit and life, not in the
real man, the imagination, which liveth for ever. In that I grow stronger and
stronger as this foolish body decays . . . Flaxman is gone and we must all soon
follow, everyone to his eternal home, leaving the delusions of goddess Nature
and her laws, to get into freedom from all the laws of the numbers,” the multi-
plicity of nature, “into the mind in which everyone is king and priest in his own
house.” The phrase about the king and priest is a memory of the crown and
mitre set upon Dante’s head before he entered Paradise. Our imaginations are
but fragments of the universal imagination, portions of the universal body of
God, and as we enlarge our imagination by imaginative sympathy, and transform,
with the beauty and the peace of art, the sorrows and joys of the world, we put
off the limited mortal man more and more, and put on the unlimited “immortal
man.” “As the seed waits eagerly watching for its flower and fruit, anxious its
little soul looks out into the clear expanse to see if hungry winds are abroad with
their invisible array ; so man looks out in tree, and herb, and fish, and bird,
and beast, collecting up the fragments of his immortal body into the elemental
forms of everything that grows. … In pain he sighs, in pain he labours in
his universe, sorrowing in birds over the deep, or howling in the wolf over the
slain, and moaning in the cattle, and in the winds.” Mere sympathy for all
living things is not enough, because we must learn to separate their “infected”
from their eternal, their satanic from their divine part ; and this can only be
done by desiring always beauty ; the one mask through which can be seen the
unveiled eyes of eternity. We must then be artists in all things, and under-
stand that love and old age and death are first among the arts. In this sense,
he insists that “Christ’s apostles were artists,” that “Christianity is Art,” and
that “the whole business of man is the arts.” Dante, who deified law, selected
its antagonist, passion, as the most important of sins, and made the regions where
it was punished the largest. Blake, who deified imaginative freedom, held
“corporeal reason” for the most accursed of things, because it makes the
imagination revolt from the sovereignty of beautyand pass under the sovereignty

38                              THE SAVOY

of corporeal law, and this is “the captivity in Egypt.” True art is expressive
and symbolic, and makes every form, every sound, every colour, every gesture,
a signature of some unanalyzable, imaginative essence. False art is not expres-
sive but mimetic, not from experience, but from observation ; and is the
mother of all evil, persuading us to save our bodies alive at no matter what
cost of rapine and fraud. True art is the flame of the last day, which begins
for every man, when he is first moved by beauty, and which seeks to burn
all things until they “become infinite and holy.”

    Blake’s distaste for Dante’s philosophy did not make him a less
sympathetic illustrator, any more than did his distaste for the philosophy
of Milton mar the beauty of his illustrations to “Paradise Lost.” The illus-
trations which accompany the present article are, I think, among the finest
he ever did, and are certainly faithful to the text of “The Divine Comedy.”
That of Dante talking with Uberti, and that of Dante in the circle of the
thieves, are notable for the flames which, as always in Blake, live with a
more vehement life than any mere mortal thing : fire was to him no unruly
offspring of human hearths, but the Kabalistic element, one fourth of creation,
flowing and leaping from world to world, from hell to hell, from heaven to
heaven ; no accidental existence, but the only fit signature, because the only
pure substance, for the consuming breath of God. In the man, about to
become a serpent, and in the serpent, about to become a man, in the second
design, he has created, I think, very curious and accurate symbols of an
evil that is not violent, but is subtle, finished, plausible. The sea and
clouded sun in the drawing of Dante and Virgil climbing among the rough
rocks at the foot of the Purgatorial mountain, and the night sea and spare
vegetation in the drawing of the sleep of Virgil, Dante and Statius near to
its summit, are symbols of divine acceptance, and foreshadow the land-
scapes of his disciples Calvert, Palmer, and Linnell, famous interpreters of
peace.

    The faint unfinished figures in the globe of light in the drawing of
the sleepers are the Leah and Rachel of Dante’s dream, the active and
the contemplative life of the spirit, the one gathering flowers, the other
gazing at her face in the glass. It is curious that Blake has made no
attempt, in these drawings, to make Dante resemble any of his portraits,
especially as he had, years before, painted Dante in a series of por-
traits of poets, of which many certainly tried to be accurate portraits. I
have not yet seen this picture, but if it has Dante’s face, it will convince
me that he intended to draw, in the present case, the soul rather than the

This is a halftone reproduction of a water-colour drawing by William Blake                  for Dante’s Purgatory is in portrait orientation. The image shows three figures                  lying down on steps that jut out from the side of the rocky mountain on the left                  edge of the picture plane. The mountain rises up to the height of the image on the                  left, jutting out about halfway down the page with a series of curved steps made                  of the same light coloured rock as the mountain. The steps begin at the bottom                  edge and take up three-quarters of the image width. The steps rise up and to the                  right before turning back to the left as they travel around the curved edge of the                  mountain. The third step is where a nude figure lies with their back to the                  viewer. The figure has their legs outstretched to the left and their head is                  leaning on top of the right side of the step above. The figure has both arms                  lifted up to rest on the step above as well. On the fifth step up from the bottom                  is a second figure. This figure is lying in the opposite direction to the person                  below. The figure’s feet are outstretched towards the right side of the step and                  their head is on the left side of the step. The figure has their face turned to                  the viewer, and is wearing a loose and flowing robe. The figure has their right                  arm wrapped around the top of their head. The figure’s eyes are closed. One step                  up is the third and final figure. This figure is lying down with their head on the                  right side of the step and their feet outstretched towards the left. The figure is                  wearing a flowing robe. The figure is propped up on their left elbow, looking                  straight on at the viewer. The figure’s right arm rests along the right side of                  their body. On the sides of the stairs all the way up are long vines and leafy                  branches. The rocky vertical section of the mountain to the left of the stairs is                  plain apart from a small tree growing up the front, rooted in the top of the left                  stair rail. From the mid-point down to the bottom of the image on the right is a                  dark and wavy sea. The top right corner of the page is filled with the sky. In the                  centre top is a large circle that appears to represent the sun or celestial orb                  with figures in it. On the left half of the circle is a seated figure in profile                  facing to the right and on the right side is a figure seated on the ground looking                  to the distant right. Around the outside of the circle are long extending beams.                  There are four stars drawn below and to the right of the celestial orb. The sky in                  the background is shaded and makes it look like the scene is taking place in the                  night. On the front of the bottom step of the stairs is the text: “Pg Canto                  27”.

    BLAKE’S ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE DIVINE COMEDY     41

body of Dante, and read “The Divine Comedy” as a vision seen not in the
body but out of the body. Both the figures of Dante and Virgil have the
slightly feminine look which he gave to representations of the soul.

                                                                        W. B. YEATS.

MLA citation:

Yeats, William Butler. “William Blake and His Illustrations to the Divine Comedy II.” The Savoy, vol. 4, August 1896, pp. 87-90. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/savoyv4-yeats-blake/