Newton by William Blake

A great poet and artist

William Blake (1757-1827) belongs to a select number who were great poets as well as great painters, although, strictly speaking, Blake was a painter/engraver. His genius was not recognized in his own lifetime, although he is now hailed as a giant of the Romantic period. He lived in a world of imagination and the spirit and devoted himself tirelessly to portraying his own unique spiritual vision through his engravings and series of poems, such as Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.

Holistic vision

His was a holistic vision, encapsulated in the famous lines: ‘To see a world in a grain of sand,/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,/And eternity in an hour.’ His vision didn’t accord with the analytic world of Newtonian materialistic science, which tended to concentrate on the rational and analytic at the expense of the holistic and spiritual side of things. Blake’s monotype Newton brilliantly illustrates this obsessive concentration on measurement and analysis.

The translation below is of my original Gaelic verses in the CLAR publication Tro Chloich na Sùla.

Newton (1795)
(by William Blake)

A man with open dividers
Carefully measuring the world,
Sure reason will define truth
And that he will get to the essence of the matter;

His head bowed, his body bent,
Looking intently at a diagram below him,
Keenly dividing a circle,
Seeing nothing except what’s in front of him

Not understanding that imagination
Is a great coloured rock right under
And behind him, but a darkness
Surrounding the head asking the questions.

The picture is split: bright colours
Stretching out behind him,
A shining multi-coloured banner,
And shadows closing in around his head

Except for the white paper at his feet,
Small and narrow in his vision,
Forgotten the other world
That is alive, but crucified.

Maoilios Caimbeul

Copyright 2015