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But they were still some distance from the nearest rocky promontory opposite the Isle de Ré, when Ralph Brakespeare began to draw his strokes more and more slowly: and his strength was plainly well-nigh spent.

"A plague on this mail-shirt"-he said, hoarsely, as Lanyon ranged up alongside. "On land it weighed no more than if it had been woven of silk; but it is a shrewd weight to carry through water, and cramps. mine arms to boot. I shall sleep with old Walter Breckenridge to-night after all. So shift for thyself, honest Will: if thou dost win safe back to Hacquemont, tell them that I tried hard to keep tryst."

For the first time in all his life the sturdy Kentishman's heart fluttered like a girl's; yet he constrained himself to speak cheerily.

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Nay, nay, my lord, 'tis not yet come to such a pass as to think of farewells. For the matter of that, whether ye sink or swim, I am minded to keep your company. Take breath for a brief space, resting your hands on my shoulders-so. Fear not to trust yourself: I profess I feel not your weight."

For a minute or two there was silence, broken only by the knight's deep labouring breath, during which Lanyon's small keen eyes roved anxiously round over the smooth sea.

"What is that?" he cried out at last, leaping breast-high from the water. By the Mass! if I mistake not, we are saved. Yon wave, breaking in a smooth sea must needs break on a rock a-wash; 'twill be hard if we find not standing ground thereon till the cramp passeth." Some two-score strokes brought them to the spot, and the esquire's hopes proved to be well-founded. It was one of the small sunken islets, common along that dangerous coast, that at ebb-tide are nearly bare; the water now scarcely more than covered it, and there was so little swell that the swimmers had no difficulty in keeping hand and foot-hold. When the strain on his sinews was once slackened, Ralph Brakespeare breathed freely again; and his numbed limbs grew lissom and strong once more in the bright sunshine. Before the water on the rock grew waist-deep, he was sufficiently refreshed to start again; so, swimming slowly in on the back of the young flood-tide, without further danger or mishap they set foot on the reefs, and scrambled safely to shore.

Whilst he took needful rest, sitting on the brown sands, Ralph looked anxiously seaward; and to his practised eyes and ears it was plain that the battle was done. The roar and rattle of the Spanish artillery had ceased altogether; and the shout that came across the water

NO. X.


was as the shout of triumph, not of combat; the throng of ships was beginning to disentangle itself into something like regular lines; whilst every pennon that could be discerned bore the arms of Castile.

At length the knight arose, shaking himself impatiently.

"A sorry sight"-he muttered-"a sorry sight. Though if stout Walter Breckenridge were alive and free, I know not why I should greatly care. Come on, and let us hear what they are saying in Rochelle; albeit, if we find no old acquaintance there, we are like to fare foully, both in food and lodging. The beggarly citizens are scarce like to give us either for charity."

"We need not be beholden to them for such matters "—the squire made answer, with the gruff chuckle which always betokened approval of himself or others. "'Twas not for naught I girt myself with this belt before starting. It felt parlous heavy when your worship looked so wan; and I was fumbling with the buckle, when mine eye lighted on yon blessed rock. Marry, 'tis as well I slipped it not!"

As he smote on the leather with his brawny hand, there came from within a pleasant jangle of gold.

Craving favour at strangers' hands was so repugnant to Ralph Brakespeare's nature, that he felt scarcely less grateful to Lanyon for his providence, than if he had saved his life twice over; yet he only said "I thank thee "'—as he strode onwards without lifting his head from his breast; and with this acknowledgment the squire was more than content.

The event of the long battle was known ere this in La Rochelle; and the townsmen in their hearts were not a little pleased thereat. Yet they thought it best to refrain from public rejoicing-not knowing how soon they might have to give account, for their slackness in rendering aid when it was so bitterly needed. And they did wisely; for on the following day-being the feast of St. John-six hundred Gascon and English spears, headed by the Captal de Buch, Percy, Freville, and Devereux, marched into the town.

Much incensed and grieved were those famous captains, when they found they had come too late; and were fain, that same afternoon, to look on from the walls whilst the Spaniards weighed anchor to beat of drum and flourish of trumpet-their pennons blazoned with the arms of Castile and Arragon, trailing to the sea-and steered for the coast of Galicia, if with not much booty aboard, with prisoners worth goodly ransom.

Mr. Swinburne's Essay on Blake.*

WILLIAM BLAKE, the most spiritual of English artists, and most mystical of English poets, was very obscurely known during his seventy years of life. He was born and bred in the midst of a prosaic generation, with whom his wayward and fiery genius had nothing akin, nor did he take any pains to become popular. Most men write hoping that other men will take pleasure in their compositions. Blake wrote to please himself, and, being an engraver and artist, he possessed the appliances for placing his mental conceptions in what he deemed the most desirable form before his material vision. He engraved his poems on his own copperplates, illustrated and coloured them with his own hands, and then sold these costly productions to a select few, some of whom really appreciated his merits, while others bought his books as an excuse for exercising a delicate charity towards a struggling man. Blake thoroughly despised popularity of the commoner sort, and often designedly wrote and drew that which he knew would shock popular prejudice. As, moreover, the majority of his compositions are of a cloudy, mystical character, full of startling heresies embedded in masses. of almost incomprehensible imagery, it is not likely that many people will ever have patience to toil through them. Even his briefer pieces, such as the Songs of Innocence and Experience, whose merits lie comparatively on the surface, are far less known than they deserve to be, and though their charming and incomparable simplicity affords a most refreshing contrast to the laboured and artificial elegance of most poetry composed during the latter half of the eighteenth century, they were but faintly praised even by such men as Southey and Wordsworth, who spoke of the author as an insane man of genius." Charles Lamb was the only man of eminence of that day who really appreciated Blake's merits.

Those who are unacquainted with the incidents of Blake's career, and who would learn more about a very remarkable-and despite his peculiarities-a very loveable man, will do well, before reading Mr. Swinburne's elaborate essay, to consult the delightful memoir of Blake written by the late Mr. Gilchrist. Concerning his outward life, it is enough to observe here that Blake was a born and bred Londoner, though endowed with an intense admiration for rural things; that * William Blake, a Critical Essay, by A. C. Swinburne. London. 1868.


through a long life he toiled laboriously for a bare pittance, and that he was blessed with a most affectionate and exemplary wife. Through life he lived habitually in two worlds-a world of fact and a world of fancy. While his body was chained down to earth, his mind enjoyed the utmost liberty, his soul looked through his material eye as through a window, and saw glorious, ineffable visions, compared with which the conceptions of Emanuel Swedenborg were cold and earthy. These mystical sights were his realities; while the world, as beheld by grosser eyes, was a mere panorama of fleeting shadows, and it was these sights which he saw, and these words which he heard spoken, that he engraved on his copper tablets in such works as the "Jerusalem," or the "Marriage of Heaven and Hell." When a boy, he was nearly thrashed by his father for declaring that he had seen a tree full of angels, while later in life he used to summon up visionary faces, and commit them to paper as if drawing from an actual substance. He gravely asked a lady if she ever saw a fairy's funeral. Never, sir." "I have," he auswered, "but not before last night. There was great stillness among the branches and flowers, and a more than common sweetness in the air. I heard a low and pleasant sound, and knew not whence it came. At last I saw the broad leaf of a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of creatures of the size and colour of grey and green grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared." Once, when a pretty little girl was introduced to Blake, he looked at her very kindly for a long while without speaking, and then, stroking her long ringlets, said, "May God make this world to you, my child, as beautiful as it has been to me." She wondered how the world of this shabby old man could be more attractive than her childish world of elegance and luxury; but in after years she understood his meaning. Blake, though eccentric, was by no means mad, for he knew that his visions were not matters of fact, but phenomena seen by his imagination, nor did he expect other people to see what he saw. Insane persons, on the contrary, believe in the Literal existence of their visionary fancies.

The star of a hitherto neglected genius must be in the ascendant when the most distinguished of our youthful poets devotes a volume of 300 pages to a careful analysis of his various compositions. Mr. Swinburne had already proved in his Essay on Byron that he could write excellent prose and criticise keenly, and his reputation in both these respects will be materially increased by the present work; but although his essay deserves much praise, the reader is advised not to accept all

Under Mr. Swin

its dogmatic assertions of indisputable truths. burne's impetuous patronage, Blake runs some risk of being injuriously overrated. The essayist begins by boldly styling him "the single Englishman of supreme and simple poetic genius, born before the closing years of the eighteenth century." Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron, were all born some time before the end of the eighteenth century; but possibly Mr. Swinburne did not intend to include them in his comparison.

Blake's portrait, prefixed to Mr. Gilchrist's memoir, is aptly described as an "eager old face, keen and gentle, with a preponderance of brow and head, clear, bird-like eyes, elegant, excitable mouth, with a look of nervous and fluent power." The first few pages of the volume contain a clever, tersely-written summary of Blake's chief characteristics, without an appreciation of which it is hopeless to attempt to penetrate the meaning of his subtler compositions. He was a defermined rebel against all precedent and authority, but his heresy was of a peculiar sort. In religion he was equally hostile to "the teapot pieties of Cowper, and the tapeyard infidelities of Paine." In a period of universal doubt and scepticism, he was possessed with a fervour and fury of belief, and he believed a thing only insomuch as it was incapable of proof. "In crude practical language," says Mr. Swinburne, "his creed amounted to this: as long as a man believes all things, he may do anything; scepticism (not sin) is alone damnable, being the one thing purely barren and negative; do what you will with your body, so long as you refuse it leave to disprove or deny the life inherent in your soul." This is pure antinomianism of a very mischievous sort. Blake was such an exceptional being, whose life was pure in spite of the laxity of his creed, but such doctrines would lead ordinary men into the grossest excesses. It is right to observe that Mr. Swinburne nowhere expresses his adherence to Blake's religious dogmas, he simply endeavours to expound his meaning, and in nowise avows himself as a disciple.

Let us quit Blake's creed, and turn to his "Poetical Sketches," the latest of which was written before the author was twenty. Of many of these Mr. Swinburne justly speaks in terms of the warmest admiration. "My silks and fine array," is sweet enough to recall the lyrics of Beaumont and Fletcher; Webster might have written the "Mad Song," while the verses headed "To Spring," and "To the Evening Star,” are worthy of Tennyson. Mr. Swinburne is rather hard on Ossian, speaking of the "evil influence which an early reading of the detestable

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