Verse > William Blake > Poetical Works
William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
On Art and Artists
Advice of the Popes who succeeded the Age of Raphael
DEGRADE 1 first the Arts if you’d mankind degrade,
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade,
Give high price for the worst, leave the best in disgrace,
And with labours of ignorance fill every place.
Note 1. On Art and Artists] Of the Epigrams grouped together in this section, written circa 1808–9, nos. I, V, XV, XXII, XXIV, XXX, XXXI, and XXXII are taken from Blake’s marginal annotations to his copy of Vol. I of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Works (2nd edition, 1798), containing the first eight ‘Discourses’. Others occasioned by the six later ‘Discourses’ were jotted down in the MS. Book, whence also the remainder of the Epigrams and satirical pieces on Art and artists have been excerpted.
  For prose parallelisms to the Epigrams readers may consult Blake’s Descriptive Catalogue, the ‘Advertisement’, and ‘Catalogue for 1810’ from the Rossetti MS., as well as the marginalia to Reynolds mentioned above, or refer to my earlier edition of the Poems where the more important of these illustrative passages have been quoted. [back]

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