they are his best work. A kind of deisidaimonia--a sacred awe--
falls upon one in turning over these wonderful productions of the
artist's declining years and failing hand.
"Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new,"
sings Waller; and it is almost possible to believe for a moment that
their creator was (as he said) "under the direction of messengers
from Heaven." But his designs for Blair's "Grave," 1808,
popularised by the burin of Schiavonetti, attracted greater
attention at the time of publication; and, being less rare, they are
even now perhaps better known than the others. The facsimile here
given is from the latter book. The worn old man, the trustful
woman, and the guileless child are sleeping peacefully; but the king
with his sceptre, and the warrior with his hand on his sword-hilt,
lie open-eyed, waiting the summons of the trumpet. One cannot help
fancying that the artist's long vigils among the Abbey tombs, during
his apprenticeship to James Basire, must have been present to his
mind when he selected this impressive monumental subject.
To one of Blake's few friends--to the "dear Sculptor of Eternity,"
as he wrote to Flaxman from Felpham--the world is indebted for some
notable book illustrations. Whether the greatest writers--the
Homers, the Shakespeares, the Dantes--can ever be "illustrated"
without loss may fairly be questioned. At all events, the showy
dexterities of the Dores and Gilberts prove nothing to the contrary.
But now and then there comes to the graphic interpretation of a
great author an artist either so reverential, or so strongly
sympathetic at some given point, that, in default of any relation
more narrowly intimate, we at once accept his conceptions as the
best attainable. In this class are Flaxman's outlines to Homer and
AEschylus. Flaxman was not a Hellenist as men are Hellenists to-
day. Nevertheless, his Roman studies had saturated him with the
spirit of antique beauty, and by his grand knowledge of the nude,
his calm, his restraint, he is such an illustrator of Homer as is
not likely to arise again. For who--with all our added knowledge of
classical antiquity--who, of our modern artists, could hope to rival
such thoroughly Greek compositions as the ball-play of Nausicaa in
the "Odyssey," or that lovely group from AEschylus of the tender-
hearted, womanly Oceanides, cowering like flowers beaten by the
storm under the terrible anger of Zeus? In our day Flaxman's
drawings would have been reproduced by some of the modern facsimile
processes, and the gain would have been great. As it is, something
is lost by their transference to copper, even though the translators
be Piroli and Blake. Blake, in fact, did more than he is usually
credited with, for (beside the acknowledged and later "Hesiod,"
1817) he really engraved the whole of the "Odyssey," Piroli's plates
having been lost on the voyage to England. The name of the Roman
artist, nevertheless, appears on the title-page (1793). But Blake
was too original to be a successful copyist of other men's work, and