Front Page Titles (by Subject) PLATE XXI. So the Lord blessed the Latter End of Job more than the Beginning. - Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
PLATE XXI. “ So the Lord blessed the Latter End of Job more than the Beginning. ” - William Blake, Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job 
Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. With Descriptive Letterpress, and A Sketch of the Artist’s Life and Works. By Charles Eliot Norton (Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1875).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
“So the Lord blessed the Latter End of Job more than the Beginning.”
“The series culminates in a scene of music and joy, which, contrasted with the calm thanksgiving of the opening design, gloriously embodies the words of its text, ‘So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.’ ” The whole family are assembled under the same mighty oak under which Job and his sons and daughters were gathered in the first design. The instruments of music are taken from the branches. Once more the flocks lie peacefully around them. As it was sunset in the opening scene, it is sunrise now; and the moon, with a waning crescent, appears, attended by the morning star and the planet of dawn. The border design is the same as in the first plate, but the texts are different. On the altar is inscribed, “In burnt-offerings for sin thou hast no pleasure.”
“In these last three designs,” says Mr. Rossetti, “I would specially direct attention to the exquisite beauty of the female figures. Nothing proves more thoroughly how free was the spiritualism of Blake’s art from any ascetic tinge. These women are given to us no less noble in body than in soul; large-eyed and large-armed also; such as a man may love with all his life. The angels (and especially those in Plate XIV., ‘When the morning stars sang together,’) may be equally cited as proofs of the same great distinctive quality. These are no flimsy, filmy creatures, drowsing on feather-bed wings, or smothered in draperies. Here the utmost amount of vital power is the heavenly glory they display; faces, bodies, and wings, all living and springing fire. And that the ascetic tendency, here happily absent, is not the inseparable penalty to be paid for a love of the Gothic forms of beauty, is evident enough, when we see those forms everywhere rightly mingling with the artist’s conceptions, as the natural breath of sacred art. With the true daring of genius he has even introduced a Gothic cathedral in the background of the worshipping group, in Plate I., as the shape in which the very soul of worship is now forever embodied for us. It is probably with the fine intention of symbolizing the unshaken piety of Job under heavy affliction, that a similar building is still seen pointing its spires heavenward in the fourth plate, where the messengers of ruin follow close at one another’s heels. We may, perhaps, even conjecture that the shapeless buildings, like rude pagan cairns, which are scattered over those scenes of the drama which refer to the gradual darkening of Job’s soul, have been introduced as forms suggestive of error and the shutting out of hope. Everywhere throughout the series we meet with evidences of Gothic feeling. Such are the recessed settle and screen of trees in Plate II., much in the spirit of Orcagna; the decorative character of the stars in Plate XII.; the leviathan and behemoth, in Plate XV., grouped so as to recall a mediæval medallion or wood-carving; the trees, drawn always as they might be carved in the wood-work of an old church. Further instances of the same kind may be found in the curious sort of painted chamber, showing the themes of his discourse, in which Job addresses his daughters in Plate XX., and in the soaring trumpets of Plate XXI., which might well be one of the rich conceptions of Luca della Robbia.
“The borders of illustrative design and inscription, which surround each subject, are slight in manner, but always thoughtful and appropriate, and often very beautiful. Where Satan obtains power over Job, we see a terrible serpent twined round tree-stems among winding fires, while angels weep, but may not quench them. Fungi spring under baleful dews, while Job prays that the night may be solitary, and the day perish, wherein he was born. Trees stand and bow like ghosts, with bristling hair of branches, round the spirit which passes before the face of Eliphaz. Fine examples also are the prostrate, rain-beaten tree in Plate XIII., and, in the next plate, the map of the days of creation. In Plate XVIII. (the sacrifice and acceptance of Job), Blake’s palette and brushes are expressively introduced in the border, lying, as it were, on an altar-step, beside the signature of his name. That which possesses the greatest charm is, perhaps, the border to Plate II. Here, at the base, are sheepfolds watched by shepherds; up the sides is a trellis, on whose lower rings birds sit upon their nests, while angels, on the higher ones, worship round flame and cloud, till it arches, at the summit, into a sky full of the written words of God.
“Such defects as exist in these designs are of the kind usual with Blake, but far less frequent than in his more wilful works; indeed, many among them are entirely free from any damaging peculiarities. Intensely muscular figures, who surprise us by a sort of line round the throat, wrists, and ankles, but show no other sign of being draped, are, certainly, sometimes to be found here as elsewhere, but not many of them. The lifted arms and pointing arms, in Plates VII. and X., are pieces of mannerism to be regetted, the latter even seeming a reminiscence of Macbeth’s Witches by Fuseli; and a few other slight instances might, perhaps, be cited. But, on the whole, these are designs no less well and clearly considered, however highly imaginative, than the others in the small, highest class of original engraved inventions, which comprises the works of Albert Dürer, of Rembrandt, of Hogarth, of Turner, of Cruikshank in his best time, and some few others. Like all these they are incisive, and richly toned to a degree which can only be attained in engraving by the original inventor, and have equally a style of execution all their own.
“To the high artistic value of this series Mr. Ruskin has borne witness. In his Elements of Drawing for Beginners, 1857, it is specified among the ‘Things to be Studied.’ ‘The Book of Job, engraved by himself,’ that is, by Blake, it is there said, ‘is of the highest rank in certain characters of imagination and expression; in the mode of obtaining certain effects of life it will also be a very useful example to you. In expressing conditions of glaring and flickering light, Blake is greater than Rembrandt.’ ”
The plates that accompany these pages reproduce, with the closeness of a fac-simile, the general character of the original engravings; but they fail to render the most delicate beauties of expression, and the finest touches of execution. The inmost, evanescent, vital spirit of the original is not to be found in these copies. But, for what they do afford,—the poetic and pictorial conception, the general composition, the distribution (though not the scale) of light and shade,—these heliotypes are greatly to be prized, and by their means many a lover of art, who, without them, could know little of Blake’s style, may gain a near, and, so far as it goes, a true acquaintance with the best designs of the most spiritually imaginative of English painters.