LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 20, No.1 - Spring 1974
Editors of this issue: Bronius Vaskelis
Copyright © 1974 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
JURGIS BALTRUŠAITIS AND WILLIAM BLAKE:
A BRIEF COMPARISON
DELIJA J. VALIUKĖNAS
Bridgewater State College
Nearly a half century after William Blake died (in 1827) in England, Jurgis Baltrušaitis was born (in 1873) in Lithuania, exactly one hundred years ago. For several reasons there has existed a comparison in some minds between the two poets partly because Baltrušaitis has apparently liked Blake's poetry enough to use lines of it as mottos for his own collections of poems, or perhaps because both poets have been called mystics, both have relied heavily on symbols, both were lyric poets chiefly interested in ideas, both were considered difficult poets, both envisioned the poet as visionary rather than as maker, and both were seekers after God. The similarities seem incontestable, but then so are the differences. Baltrušaitis clearly felt a kinship with those aspects of Blake's philosophy that resembled his own. Two out of the three mottos he uses from Blake express his own no less than Blake's concern with suffering and eternity. Where they differ, however, is in their poetic expression of them. As for their mysticism, Blake was not a mystic. It's a word he never uses and perhaps he might better be called a visionary, "which is not quite the same thing. This is a word," as Northrop Frye tells us, "Blake uses and uses constantly. A visionary creates, or dwells in, a higher spiritual world in which the objects of perception in this one have become charged with a new intensity of symbolism."1 This defines Baltrušaitis' "mysticism" as well, though the visionary in Baltrušaitis seems to have reverted back, during the period of his Lithuanian poetry, to simple Christian faith.
Their use of symbols was also divergent: Blake both used traditional symbols and created his own private symbolic system in accordance with his own private vision, while Baltrušaitis, in the tradition of 20th century Symbolism invoked images/symbols as access roads to infinity. And while both poets were thinkers first and poets only second, Blake's thought was revolutionary even to the point of madness, whereas Baltrušaitis' initial inclinations to Neoplatonism were sacrificed to orthodox Christianity, to the values of suffering, resignation, and spiritual reward. Finally, the God with which Blake remained obsessed throughout his life he never really searched for and never believed in (in the sense that obsession does not demand faith), whereas Baltrušaitis' God, Who appears in his Russian poems as merely the One, the Ultimate Reality, in concept not unlike the Indian Brahma of which all creation is a part, who is the Unity in Multiplicity, becomes the concept of God the Father, the "Rūpintojėlis" in his Lithuanian poems.
However, in the course of this whole reassessment of similarities and reassertion of differences, one essential point of comparison does remain, namely, the unappeasable longing that each poet had for the absolute integration of man into the universe. Out of this longing and the art that grew out of it is as good a point of departure as any for the closer examination of the poetry of William Blake and Jurgis Baltrušaitis.
Let us start with the doctrine of God which is central to both Blake and Baltrušaitis and from which their longing stems. I have said that Blake did not believe in a God. Indeed he maintained that many of his contemporaries worshipped a Being whom they addressed as "God," but who was, in fact, an anthropomorphic creation; Blake called him "Nobodaddy." What Blake believed in was Christ. Christ was his religion. Christ was the source of his perception that there is an infinite in everything; Blake discovers that Christ and Blake (in other words, man) are inseparable from God and that God is not the beginning of a temporal sequence known as the First Cause but rather that moment of infinity in our everyday lives and our creative acts.
This, too, is Baltrušaitis' perception of God; like Blake he aims to apprehend the infinite in the finite. However, Blake perceives it through man, Baltrušaitis through nature. It is this difference in their vision that gives shape to the difference in their poetry. And to return once again to Christ as a central point of difference between them, A. Jakštas has complained that "Christ's greatest triumph His resurrection from the dead does not move Baltrušaitis in the least."2 On the other hand, Blake perceived in Christ the humanity of God. He accepted the Christian doctrine that no one can know the Father except through the Son though perhaps not in the sense the Church teaches it. What he accepts is that we cannot know the infinite except through the finite, to God except through Christ, i.e., through man, for Christ and man are one. And, therefore, Man in his creative acts and perceptions is God, and "The worship of God is: Honoring his gifts in other men, each according to his genius, and loving the greatest men best: those who envy or calumniate great men hate God; for there is no other God" (MHH, K158).3 And when we do recognize the divine aspect of great men, it is the divine in us that recognizes itself or as Blake states it in "A Little Boy Lost,"
"Naught loves another as itself,
''Nor venerates another so,
"Nor is it possible to Thought
"A greater than itself to know:
With Baltrušaitis, on the other hand, we have a similar impulse to discover God but not in man. If we look at his seven stages of forgetfulness ("Septyni užsimiršimai"4), which chart his spiritual development we will notice that after stages one and two which include the state of aesthetic and unquestioning appreciation of creation followed by the loss of certainty, stage three is resignation to the smallness of man:
Tavo naktis tamsi
Tu gi dumblas esi...
(Your night is dark
You are mud after all...)
Baltrušaitis gets his mystical vibrations from nature, unlike Blake who finds the divine only in man: "Where man is not, nature is barren" (MHH, K152).
The central symbol of the imagination in all Blake's work is the city. It is something which man's superiority over nature has evolved. It is here that Blake finds whatever solace he needs in the face of metaphysical inscrutable, i.e., in man's supremacy over all creation, in his creative energies which deify him before all creation. There is no divinity in sky, nature or thought superior to ourselves. Hence there is in Blake no idea of the perfection of a established moral order, which is the quintessential idea in Baltrušaitis' Lithuanian poetry. It is this very perfection of established order that provides Baltrušaitis with a sense of the design and therefore meaning in his own and the reed's existence:
Judvi dvi Jo mįslės, dvi vienodos dalys
Pelenų ir žiedo jungtame stebukle...
("Smilgų Šlamesys," L29)
(The two of you two of His riddles, two
In a joint miracle of ashes and blossoms)
("The Rustling of Reeds")
But Blake rejects all such intuitions of identity between man and nature as implanted by the mind on nature. Nature is there for us to transform, he says; it is neither a separate creation of God nor an objective counterpart of ourselves. He sees Nature as cruel, wasteful, and chaotic. He sees nothing outside of man and his concerns worthy of respect. Consequently, man and man alone is central to Blake's poetry, whereas Baltrušaitis' transcendent relationship with Nature often turn him away from human concerns and daily realities. Doubtless, Baltrušaitis would never have admitted to such a statement, since he appears to have much to say to men, suffering men: "Tad laimink skausmą, tingusis verge" ("Aukuro Rūkas," L63) (Therefore, bless the pain, you lazy slave ["Smoke from the Sacrificial Fire"]. But, in fact, his poetry ignores man and his sufferings. For him they exist only in the abstract. In Ašarų Vainikas and Aukuro Dūmai he is too facile with his advice to move us with his compassion or his humanity. No doubt he speaks from his own personal visions when he says,
Bet priimk ir tokį kelią
Kad ir vargšė, tu ne vergė
Kito audeklo dalelė,
Tu jo margą mįslę sergi...,
(Accept even this road
Although you're a wretched thing, you're not a slave
But a fragment from another fabric,
You guard his multi-colored riddle...)
but even the visional y Blake would not dare reconcile man to pain any more than he would attempt to reconcile man to evil.
The metaphysical problem of evil is the subject of his most well-known poem "The Tiger" in which Blake does not explain the tiger as part of a divine order nor explain how an all-good God would create an awesome thing of evil. Nothing is orthodox with Blake. The tiger-maker is not God, simply defined, nor is the tiger evil, simply defined. The implications of the description indicate the Creator merely as absolute energy and awesome beauty. The Creator is presented to us in terms of a blacksmith who forges steel from fire, in other words, a Being capable of harnessing an even greater source of energy than the one he creates, an Overreacher, in fact, an Icarus and a Prometheus who defies the gods. God is a Creator, no more, no less. Hence man the creator is divine as well. Note particularly that Blake does not wait or long for the point in Eternity when, as Baltrušaitis puts it, "Ji [Visata] liepsną ir dūmus suvienys" ("Būties Psalmė," L131). (It [the universe] will unite flame and smoke ["A Psalm of Being"]). Even though Blake recognizes the duality of good and evil (which Baltrušaitis regards monistically, he does not see it as a war between opposites; "he sees only the creative tension presented by the struggle of man to resolve the contraries."6
Yet pain is a vital element in Blake's poetry; in at least one third of the forty-two poems found in his Songs of Innocence and Experience some form of the word "weep" or the word "tears" is mentioned, and in almost every context the weeping and the tears have been caused by society: by either its prisons or its churches or its money or its morals or its fashionable opinions. And Blake criticized and rejected them all. For Blake there was resigning oneself to suffering caused by hypocrisy, greed, injustice, cruelty, inhumanity, or dogmatic morality, of which the sole author was man and for which he was to be most vilely attacked. It is interesting to observe at this point that the divinity in us which Blake postulates is obviously no guarantee against our limitations and our failings. We can be far more cruel than anything found in nature and corrupt unlike anything found in nature. But if we are hideous, it is by our own talents; no one, no god, no divinity has made us so.
We bring evil into existence, argues Blake, when we perversely wish to cut down and restrict the scope of life: backbiting, slandering, tyranny and other acts of viciousness are all restrictive of life. Evil is always negative; it consists either of self-restraint or in the restraint of others. There can be no such thing, strictly speaking, as an evil act; all acts are good, and evil comes when activity is hindered. Blake gives the example of theft and murder as "Hindering Another" (AL, K88). And since laws hinder, and moral codes hinder, and factories hinder, and the belief in an afterlife with its rewards and punishments hinders, Blake is opposed to them all. He is against any attempt to buy a future life at the cost of this one.7 "London" depicts just these rejections. There is a chain of evil here that has produced the coal-stained, ulcerated, tubercular, cancer-ridden young chimney-sweeper, who might be no more than ten years old, and the bleeding soldier, and the infected newborn, who already begins life diseased because the moral code has restricted her parents to a loveless marriage and driven her father to the backrooms of prostitutes. Man's "mindforg'd manacles" are killing the chimney sweeper, have killed the soldier, and doomed the infant. Man creates irrevocable laws and irrevocable institutions, and irrevocable policies within which he then traps and imprisons himself and posterity. And this sort of suffering caused by mental enslavement Blake rejects.
Clearly Baltrušaitis has not pursued intellectually the question of evil to discover its nature and its cause. In his poetry it appears only as a given, like the cycle of seasons and the coming of night or like the evergreen which is ever green:
Kol siaubas lakusis
Vis ginsis, vis skųsis
("Eglės Giesmė," L133)
(As long as the whirling wind
Convulses the fir tree,
A Lithuanian's heart
Will forever plead, forever lament...)
("Song of the Fir")
No new pain has been with the nation as long as the evergreen, and a deeper penetration into the metaphysics of evil would appear gratuitous in Baltrušaitis' poetry. Consequently, pain and evil appear only as words ("rūpesčių sluogos, sopės be vardo") (the dolorous weights, the nameless afflictions) in his poems rather than given instances or experiences of it, Baltrušaitis does not recreate it imaginatively as Blake does when he has us in "A Little Boy Lost" see the Priest seize the child by the hair, strip him, bind him and burn him for an unwitting heresy. Even when Baltrušaitis particularizes pain as hunger, for example, it is always with the intention of resigning the hungry to their hunger. It is this that makes his poems static. They appear literally to be grafted onto his few predetermined themes: the purifying and rewarding nature of suffering and the search for infinity. He does not imply his themes, as Blake does, through a dramatic narrative or the depiction of a human situation. His poetry is actually an embellishment of them. He often begins his poems with a thematic statement ("Ankšta ir trošku po žemės stogu,")8 (It's constraining and stifling beneath an earthly roof) or inserts it midway ("Gimsta vėl kas mirė")9 (That which dies is again reborn) or ends with an imperative one ("Stok, lietuvi, skink kitus kelius, / Kad išvežtum žemės vargelius").10 (Stand, Lithuanian, choose other routes, So that you may survive the earthly woes). What I am saying in effect is that Baltrušaitis' style is a possible cause of his world view; it is, in fact, central to understanding his poetry in general.
None other than Baltrušaitis himself expounded "the essence of art" (presumably this included his own) in an essay entitled "The Distinguishing Inner Marks of Roerich's Painting" (Roerich, Petrograd, 1916). He called it the
"celebration of comprehending contemplation, the assertion of the general in the fragmentary, the raising of the transitory veils from the eternal face of life... [The] subject of art consists not of what tangibly exists and takes place around us, not in the so-called immediate actuality of the world, but of our thoughts about the world... Life's reality... as it is accessible to our immediate perception, is too narrow for art, if only because our apprehension of the world is limited by time and space; we hear and see only to a negligible distance... Only what we think about life, only the image of the world in our soul knows neither bonds nor measure..."
The danger of writing such poetry is obvious: it is in danger of not being poetry. It is also in danger of being monotonous and indistinct, so indistinct, in fact, that with some notable exceptions few of Baltrušaitis' poems are capable of being individually remembered after one reading. Art by its very nature after all is intended to appear to the senses; if it bypasses these, it is no longer art but something else. A sensuous art is a contradiction in terms. To paraphrase J. Eichenwald, Baltrušaitis has not yet reached the stage of having his poetry arrive at the abstract idea via the concrete experience. He has not yet objectified the narrator in his poems. His poetry gives us the conclusions without the experience.11 However, there is no denying that Baltrušaitis does so consciously; he has personally criticized 19th century artists for their representation of ''the commonplace heterogeneity of things, their everyday fragmentation" ("The Distinguishing Inner Marks of Roerich's Painting") Baltrušaitis' aim as B. Sruoga points out, is to eliminate the decorative details of poetry, their concreteness and their imagery and to concentrate on universals, successfully releasing himself from the superficial thing and event to move on toward the meaning and the essence.12 But the assumption that "the decorative details" are separable from the meaning is not valid. A poem, meaning and all, is the sum of its parts; in other words, a poem is its meaning, or as a modern poet has said, poetry should not mean but be; and one can no more distinguish between the poem and its "essence" than one can between an onion and its layers.
It is Baltrušaitis' style of writing abstract verse that constitutes major difficulty in his poetry and makes for its obscurity. The difficulties and the obscurity are there in Blake as well, but they are not of style; his vocabulary is usually concrete and graphic and his syntax pure. He sticks to the rhythms of informal English speech with all its colloquialisms and clichés. No poet to my knowledge has as direct a style for so complex a thought. In fact, the clearer Blake's writing becomes, the more obscure it appears.
Take, for example, the poem "The Little Girl Lost," which is by no means the obscurest of his poems. In this poem we have the vision of a child lost in the wilderness, visited by beasts of prey and conveyed to their den. The language is exceptionally simple but meaningless on any deeper level unless we take the imagery to be symbolic: namely, the little girl as belonging to the archetype outside literature. She is the maiden of Greek myth, Persephone, who descends into Hades for half of the year and reascends for the other. The little girl lost and falling asleep in the forest and cared for by beasts has analogues in other 'traditions as well; it is a motif from folklore and fairytale: "Sleeping Beauty," "Beauty and the Beast" for example. The tree she falls asleep under is symbolic, the forest is symbolic, her being lost is symbolic. The poem expresses the familiar paradox that in order to gain life it is necessary to lose it; one must die to this world to be reborn into the next; one must descend into experience in order to ascend into spiritual growth. "The worst thing that can happen in experience, then, is to refuse it,"13 and this is what Lyca's parents wish she would do. They weep because she is lost, because she is asleep in the forest under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She evokes the inevitable animal passions, from which her parents wish to protect her. But the lion's rich gold mane and ruby tears testify to a more complex meaning than merely bestial sensuality.
The closest thing to this Blakean type of apparently transparent simplicity of style in Baltrušaitis is his Russian poem "The Reaper" (R66; in J. Valaitis' 1947 translation, "Piovėja").14 But unlike the imagery in Blake's poem, Baltrušaitis" seems to have no other context, no larger frame of reference (say, Lithuanian or Russian folklore or mythology, Christian mythology, as Blake's poem did in the Biblical theme of tree and forest, the Greek myth of the primordial maiden and so on) upon which a reader might draw to reach an understanding of the poem. The meaning of the poem remains obscure because of our inability to explain for a start, who the reaper is and what her relationship is to the prince and the princess about to be married. Why is the way to the altar of marriage through the fields? If the prince, the princess, the reaper, the sickle, the heat of the day, the storm, the holy candles, and the banquet are symbols, what do they represent? I, for one, do not know how to read the poem, and if it aims to describe no more than the blessing of a royal couple by a reaper who had once been and still is in love with the groom then it is a far cry from the complexity of Blake.
In his Lithuanian poetry, however, Baltrušaitis' use of symbols is essentially different in nature from Blake's. Generally speaking, symbols are objects, physical elements that suggest abstract qualities or objects for which intellectual resemblances can be found. For example, water suggests rebirth and so on. But there are many variations within the confines of this broad definition, and Blake and Baltrušaitis represent two of them. Blake used symbols to interpret objective reality (as did Baltrušaitis) and to show their relation to and their expression of mankind (as Baltrušaitis did not). Everything Blake saw revealed to him the inner essence of mankind, whereas everything Baltrušaitis saw revealed to him the inner essence of God. The difference is crucial and points to the respective philosophy of each. Blake felt that everything must be interpreted in terms of humanity because it is actually a part of humanity. The Rose, for example, is not really a symbol of Love, it is Love, as Love exists separated from the human mind and given a visible exterior form. Nature is nothing but Man's mirror. For Blake the entire material world came to symbolize various aspects of humanity:15 caves symbolized the materialists; the ocean symbolized the sterile waters of Matter; forests symbolized the unrestricted growth of error; mountains symbolized high places of thought, though still of this earth, and so on. This was his perpendicular view of the world. Blake also had a horizontal one. He took the North for the region of the Spirit because Jesus came to Jerusalem from Galilee in the North. The South was the region of Reason as opposed to the North. The West, among other things, meant Liberty (for America lay in that direction). The East was the region of Passion, since here Day and Life began. Thus for Blake the world, everything perceived by the senses, represents aspects of Man, for Man alone is of central interest to Man who cannot see his God and so he deifies Himself.
Not so for Baltrušaitis or for the French (and Russian) Symbolists and Surrealists. For them Nature is nothing but a mirror of the infinite. Objective reality is merely surface matter for catching reflection of a transcendental cosmic effulgence. Baltrušaitis and the symbolists and surrealists (and I am purposely blurring the distinctions between the latter in view of their similarities) use words to intuit this other surreality beyond appearances. The method of perceiving the surreal are manifold. It can be a quite technical matter of taking down fifty pages of automatic writing (Breton) and finding a text foreign to his personality as well as a wealth of imagery that Breton felt he could not have produced deliberately even at the cost of effort. Thus surrealism was born and access to Surreality had been achieved via the subconscious mind without the censoring or interpretative intervention of one's intelligence. Previous to the Surrealist writings of André Breton, however, the Symbolists, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé, found they could penetrate sublimity either by a series of different symbols, say, for instance, by a given shade of color, which might express for Baudelaire an invisible essence; or by a certain calculated incoherence, calculated to disorient your usual perception of things just enough to have you reorder it on other than intellectual grounds, thus forcing the recognition of a mode of comprehension beyond reason (Rimbaud); or by dwelling on the magic power of words: Mallarmé found that sometimes when several words come into close juxtaposition a sudden spark is struck, illuminating the presence of the transcendent universe. This miracle of poetry does not occur for the objective meaning of the word but rises spontaneously from the very sound and connotation of the word itself. It is the first and last method of contacting the Surreal that, one might say, Baltrušaitis uses. He, too, perceives infinity through nature and language. Like Mallarmé, Baltrušaitis seems to have found that the secret virtue of a word depends hardly at all upon its objective meaning; its virtue is derived for the most part from the word's emotional connotation. And since the connotation does not seem to weaken for the poet he uses the same images over and over again. Hence the frequent monotony in the writings of these poets, for whom the magical word has not lost its potency, though it may have for us.
There are approximately two dozen words in Baltrušaitis' verse which reappear with great frequency and which I have grouped according to their shared associations. These I would call his symbols: 1) path, trail, stream, echo, bell, wave, and skiff; 2) blizzard, smoke, dusk, fog, mist, clouds, and rain; 3) stars, moon, flame, and sparks; 4) island, cliffs, and rocks; and finally 5) chalice, spell, banquet, and castle. These are words that carry more than their objective and denotative meanings for Baltrušaitis. Like the surrealists, he sees in them evidence of a transcendent reality. They have, as it were, mystical value for him; they suggest a reality that is inaccessible to his senses.
For example, in the first group (path, trail, etc.) all the images share one characteristic, namely, the existence of a source, visible or invisible. A path leads both from and to someplace; an echo proceeds from a sound giver; a bell implies a ringer; a wave originates elsewhere than where it breaks; a skiff, like a path, suggests a point of departure and arrival, a place from as well as a place to. Hence someone seeing a path, a skiff, a wave or hearing an echo or a bell knows that even though its point of origin or its source might remain invisible, it nevertheless has one:
Iš šventviečių kalnų, miškų rūkų
Tyliojoj žemėj vienišais keleliais,
Prisotinti pavasario laukų
Į tolį veržias nerimo upeliai...
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ir bangos kiekviena smūgiu kurčiu
Į tolumas jau veržiasi žadėtas,
Į ten, kur prieglobsčiu blankiu, glaudžiu
Tyla visus sutinka, kaip mylėtus...
(from 'Juodasis Ežeras,' R59)
Out of the hallowed hills, the forest mists,
In the quiet earth, down solitary paths,
Slaked by spring meadows,
Streams of unquietness press onward...)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(And the waves each with a deaf blow
Forge onward into the promised distance,
There, where in his soft, loving care
Silence greets each, like a beloved...)
("The Black Lake")
In this relationship between the visible and the invisible, the implications concerning life and afterlife, the finite and the infinite are obvious.
The next group of images-symbols (blizzard, smoke, etc.) suggests somewhat paradoxically the positive through the negative or in exact contrast to the preceding group the visible through the invisible. Mists and fogs arouse men's deepest longings: "Migloj aš ilgiuos nuolatos ..." (In a fog I always yearn...). Grand vistas may speak of infinity, but so do fogs. They aggravate our grouping limitations, shroud us completely in the actual world from what we know is there but temporarily can't see. They come as a reminder of man's infinite longings which are continually frustrated by palls of external reality.
The third group, of images that Baltrušaitis uses frequently include the light images: stars, moon, flame, and sparks. It is not surprising that the image of the sun does not appear in his poems with any noticeable regularity. The light images in Baltrušaitis are those that give either a very bland or a very brief light, i.e., light without illumination, or just enough light to suggest a greater source: the moon shines by reflection of the sun, a flame is a mere part of a larger fire, a spark is an even smaller segment of it, and a star is in some cases merely the light from a long since extinguished sun that has taken eons of light years to reach us. It is noteworthy that this set of symbols, like the first one, also suggests either a source or the invisible (or visible) whole of which it is a part:
Vakarinės žvaigždės mirgesy
Aš tik prarastą šviesą matau...
(from "Tėviškė," R105)
In the glimmer of the evening star
I see only a forfeited light...)
The fourth group differs from the preceding three somewhat in that it seems only to suggest the granite-like, rock silence with which nature greets human questioning. Islands and rocks: the unreachable and impenetrable. Interestingly enough, however, Baltrušaitis concludes that even though rock cannot be penetrated, it can be hewn. While it may yield no answers, it allows itself to be fashioned into them:
Dar. pasaulis nesukurtas,
Dievo rūmai nebaigti,
Pilkas tik akmuo suburtas,
Rankoms raumens teduoti...
Keliui į kalnų tvirtovę
Piešk granitą ir kalvas,
Į savos tamsos tikrovę
Terpkie žiežirbų spalvas...
(from "Ave, Crux!" R62)
(The world has not yet been created,
The mansion of God yet unfinished,
The grey stone alone has been conjured into being,
[And] muscles given to arms...
For a road up to the mountain fortress
Rip the granite and the hills,
Into your own certainty of darkness
Force the colors of the sparks...)
I have left the "reward" images (chalice, banquet, castle) for last because of their religious implications and hence their inconsistency with the other, more profound, "visionary" perceptions of transcendence. Baltrušaitis longs for the spiritual home from which he has issued, but by calling it a castle or drinking from the chalice, together with his literal references to God, he suggests a mere Christian paradise.
In connection with these symbols I might also mention the occasional characters and personae that speak in his poems: the wanderer, the monk, the orphan, the ghost, the spectator, the homeless one. Their common denominator is rootlessness, impermanence, loss. None are individualized; they are merely aspects of Baltrušaitis' own spiritual loss, wandering, and search. In fact, he not only saturates his work (predominantly his Russian poems) with images of night, paths, and fog but with images of "deaf nights," "deaf globes," "deaf towers," "silent [i.e. dumb] mists," "lonely paths," "stony roads," and "depressing dusk," It is the modifiers no less than the images which convey the search, the cosmic silence, and the painful alienation. In the Lithuanian poems the same images tend to remain but they are no longer found in the same contexts. Not only has the tone of the poems become patronizing, sermonizing and attitudinizing, but the feeling is now on behalf of the Lithuanian peasant, whom Baltrušaitis has undertaken to resign to his lot in life.
From the visionary surrealist of Žemės pakopos, who seems to have had some points of contact with Blake (in his infinite longings if in nothing else) we have in Ašarų Vainikas and in Aukuro Dūmai the surrogate priest and counselor counseling a patient people to patience and also evoking this time around not the earlier transcendent visions but rather scenes of sunsets that are no more than sunsets, autumn days that are no more than the traditional reminders of approaching death and decay, and a whole series of images evocative of the Lithuanian landscape: oaks, poppies, church belfries, fields of daisies, and others.
There is no doubt that Baltrušaitis and Blake faced life with the same questions: why pain? What kind of Being is this essence of man called God? But their resolution or attempt at resolution of the questions is different. Both sought after everlasting certainty; both sought after the infinite. Baltrušaitis found it, Blake did not. Blake's fierce will prevented him from accepting any part of life without understanding; Baltrušaitis' will did not. Blake created myths that would restore man's lost vision and do away with the tragedy. Baltrušaitis eventually accepted the ones already created by Christianity. When necessary, Blake even borrowed from heresies to fill out his myths. As Alfred Kazin points out, "It is not hard to understand how comforting... [it] must have been to Blake to hold that the world was dominated by Satan";16 it resolved to many questions.) They called Blake "mad"; he would not give up his myths; he created them endlessly and represented his heroes as human beings in postures of struggle, oppression and liberation. So he created an Albion, who is his central figure of man; a Urizen, who is god of this world and its materialism and sterility; an Ore, who is Blake's first hero; a Los, who is the spirit of time working to rejoin man to his lost unity. Blake tried to replace this world with another, a mythical one created in its likeness. It was Blake's response to the unanswerables. He does not take man or God as he finds him; Baltrušaitis does. It is the very core of Baltrušaitis' philosophy to accept everything as an inseparable aspect of totality which is God and use his art to join in the testimony to the eternal will.
Blake takes upon himself the task of refuting all existing literature. He defies what he cannot accept; he does not seek to justify God's ways to man or man's to God but laboriously seeks to establish man as independent spiritual being his own God and Jesus the most sublime incarnation of It. Blake was the ultimate rebel; Baltrušaitis was none, and these two facts will forever be the distinguishing element in their poetry. Like Verkhovensky in Dostoyevsky's The Possessed when faced with uncertainty, Blake preferred to risk anything than remain in it, even to the point of creating his own personal mythology, while Baltrušaitis returned to the dogmatism of his religious heritage. Neither could live without an absolute belief, so one created his own and the other accepted an existing one.
1 Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake, (Princeton, 1947), p. 8.
2 "Didžiausias Kristaus triumfas atsikėlimas iš numirusių jo širdies nee kiek nejaudina." A. Jakštas, Mūsų Naujoji Poezija (1904-1923), (Kaunas, 1923), p. 342, quoted by Vytautas Kubilius, "Jurgio Baltrušaičio Kelias," Jurgis Baltrušaitis, Poezija (Vilnius, 1067), p. 44.
3 All references to Blake's own works are accompanied by the page reference to The Complete Writings of William Blake, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London, 1957). These page references are Proceeded by the letter "K". The following abbreviations for Blake's works have been employed: AL (Annotations to Lavater's Aphorism on Man); MHH (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell); SE (Songs of Experience); SI (Songs of Innocence).
4 The seven stages are discussed by B. Sruoga in his Introduction to J. Baltrušaitis' Ašarų Vainikas (Kaunas, 1942), p. 102.
5 All references to Baltrušaitis' Lithuanian poetry are accompanied by the page reference to Poezija, ed. J. Aistis (Boston, 1948). These page references are preceded by the letter "L".
6 I am endebted for this idea to Alfred Kazin, "Introduction," The Portable Blake, (New York, 1968), p. 43.
7 Kazin discusses this at greater length in his Introduction, See pp. 10 - 12.
8 "Po Žemės Stogu," L169.
9 "Švytuoklė," L76.
10 "Akordai," L153.
11 See J. Aistis, "Jurgis Baltrušaitis," Poezija (Boston, 1948), p. 251.
12 "Introduction," Ašarų Vainikas, p. 118.
13 Hazard Adams, William Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems (Seattle, 1963), p. 211.
14 All references to Baltrušaitis' Russian poetry are accompanied by the page reference to Žemės Pakopos, trans. J. Valaitis, (Tübingen, 1947). These page reference are preceded by the letter "R".
15 See S. Foster Damon, William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols (Gloucester, Mass., 1958), p. 282.
16 "Introduction," The Portable Blake, p. 53.