Friday, April 6, 2012

Blake's Soul

A title page for "The Grave." Along the bottom of the page is an illustration of a reclining skeleton looking up into a trumpet being blown by an upside-down nude man.Robert Blair's poem The Grave was an enormous popular success in the 18th century. Written in 1743, it came out in nearly 50 separate editions by the end of the century. But, it is most famous today for an edition that came well after Blair's death. In 1808, William Blake used the popular "graveyard" poem as a vehicle for a set of 12 etchings showing his vision of life after death.

The book had an impressive list of subscribers, including the queen (who received a dedicatory poem by Blake). It was a bold move: Blake was still relatively unknown, while Blair's poem was standard reading. But in fact, Blake overwhelms the poem and takes over the book -- even putting his own portrait on the frontispiece in the place that should have been reserved for Blair.

An illustration of a figure reclining stiffly in bed, while a woman in a nightgown floats into the air, her feet nearly connected to the feet of the figure in bed. The caption reads "The soul hovering over the body reluctantly parting with Life."An illustration of a partially draped figure kneeling with his arms in the air as a floating woman embraces him about the neck. They are surrounded by flames. The caption reads "The reunion of the soul & the body."

Ask for Val 825B57 R31.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting to Yeats's House

A postcard bearing a hand-drawn map and directions.
Following up on the curious relationship between Ezra Pound and Robert Frost, we have to share another little nugget from the collection. When Pound was helping Frost make the connections he needed to establish himself as a poet, he set up a meeting for Frost with W.B. Yeats. This postcard is an artifact of the meeting: directions to Yeats's house in Pound's hand. It might not seem like much, but it's electrifying to hold.

Ask for MS 1178, Box 12, Folder 3.