" Imagery is not, it may be held, the last, or inmost, word of poetry. There is a simplicity on the yonder side. The simplicity of the hither side may be natural and pleasing enough, though it may also be ' natural' as is the village fool. But the simplicity of the further poetry is a plainness within those splendid outer courts of approach where imagery celebrates ritual and ceremony. A few poems abide in that further place-a further place, did we call it ? It is far, indeed, from the access of the suitor, but closest of all things to the warm breast of the very Nurse. Francis Thompson dealt almost altogether in imagery; and it is because of this that his less sympathetic readers accuse him of a lack of simplicity. And he himself, in a manuscript note, says: ' Imagery is so far from being " all fancy " (which is what people mean by saying it is " all imagination ") that the deepest truths-even in the natural or physical order-are often adumbrated only by images familiar, and yet conceived to be purely fanciful analogies. . . .' No ' lack' was among his faults. Where he might be charged or questioned was in his commission, not in his omission-his commission of the splendid fault of excess. How many poets might be furnished, not from the abundance, but from the overabundance, of his imagery, and the prunings and the chastenings of his ' fancy.' The spoils of such a correction as would have made a few of his odes more ' classical' might have been gathered up, a golden armful, by poets who need have stooped for nothing else, twelve basketsful of fragments, after the feeding of a chosen multitude."
One is for the idea, the other for vision ; one for the word, the other for its conception.
" He stood at the very junction-lines of the visible and invisible, and could shift the points as he willed," said F. T. of Shelley. And the lever was imagery; the signals were images ; the sleepers were images-all the machinery that made and marked the way. It binds the universe ; it expresses " the underlying analogies, the secret subterranean passages, between matter and soul; the chromatic scales, whereat we dimly guess, by which the Almighty modulates through all the keys of creation."
That modulation through time, also, Thompson traces in the transition from antiquity to the future, from Paganism to Christianity, from the Old Law to the New:-
On Ararat there grew a vine; When Asia from her bathing rose, Our first sailor made a twine 217
Thereof for his prefiguring brows. Canst divine
Where, upon our dusty earth, of that vine a cluster grows ?
On Golgotha there grew a thorn Round the long-prefigured Brows. Mourn, 0 mourn ! For the vine have we the spine ? Is this all the Heaven allows ?
On Calvary was shook a spear; Press the point into thy heart- Joy and fear!
All the spines upon the thorn into curling tendrils start.
He had intended to show in an essay that symbolism is no arbitrary convention. He bids himself expound its elements by leading examples, and, had he done so, we should have known more of the geography of that region where symbols and their principles are merged. " All things linked are"'; the daisy is the signature of the star ; for the poet all terrestrial minutiae were signed, nay, scribbled all over with reference marks and sealed with the likeness of larger things. From an old commentator on St. Thomas Aquinas, F. T. copied :-
"The angelic intellect contains the things which belong to universal nature, and those also which are the principles of individuation, knowing by science divinely infused, not only what belongs to universal nature, but also individualities of things, inasmuch as these all form multiplied representation of the one Simple Essence of God."
The ancient school of Herbalists believed that natural remedies were stamped with the likeness of the parts to which they would bring healing, as walnuts, which, because they "have the perfect signature of the head, are profitable to the brain." Poisons show something like contrition by taking to themselves colours and odours plainly evil; vipers, as proper scholars of the alphabet, wear V for venom on their heads. The Herbalists took the narrowing road, from vision down to practice. They pounded their discoveries to powder with the bald-head pestle of literalness. The mortar of the herbalist is the chalice of the poet. It is the difference again between illusion and imagination, or, as Blake figured them, between Adam and Christ.
Blake's conception of the identity of and correspondence between the Complete or Divine Mind and Humanity led him to further definitions which are of weight in general consideration of the poetry of imagination. Our world, he held, was a contraction of our mind from the mind of God of which it is a part. To illusion-the perception and acceptance of the erroneous deductions of the contracted personality, or Adam-he gave the name Satan. Besides Perception (here I have recourse verbatim to Mr. Edwin J. Ellis's invaluable disquisition):-
" Besides perception, always tempting us to error, by leading through narrow to mistaken personality, there is ' imagination always inviting us to truth. For this Blake took the name of Saviour, or Humanity free from Adam's narrowness and Satan's falseness."
Of the more purely literary aspect of imagery Thompson has written:-
" How beautiful a thing the frank toying with imagery may be, let 'The Skylark' and 'The Cloud' witness. It is only evil when the poet, on the straight way to a fixed object, lags continually from the path to play. This is commendable neither in poet nor errand-boy."
"To sport with the tangles of Neasra's hair may be trivial idleness or caressing tenderness, exactly as your relation to Neaera is that of heartless gallantry or love. So you may toy with imagery in mere intellectual ingenuity, and then you might as well go write acrostics; or you may toy with it in raptures, and then you may write a ' Sensitive Plant.' "