JOHN DENNIS AND BLAKE’S GUINEA SUN
In the long fourth chapter of his 1704 essay “The Grounds of Criticism,” John Dennis draws a distinction between “Vulgar Passion” and “Enthusiastick Passion, or Enthusiasm.” In delineating the latter he uses as an example our various perceptions of the sun: “ . . . [T]he Sun mention’d in ordinary Conversation, gives the Idea of a round flat shining Body, of about two foot diameter. But the Sun occurring to us in Meditation, gives the Idea of a vast and glorious Body, and the top of all the visible Creation, and the brightest material Image of the Divinity.”1↤ 1 The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1939-43), I, 338-39. In his famous conclusion to “A Vision of The Last Judgment,” Blake echoes Dennis’ exemplary contrast both in his imagery and diction. Blake, however, is contrasting the world of Imagination, rather than Enthusiasm, and Generation: “What it will be Questioned When the Sun rises do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty . . . .”2↤ 2 The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman (Garden City: Doubleday, 1965), p. 555. In the original, ironically, Dennis, while acknowledging the aesthetic superiority of “Enthusiastick Passion,” proceeds in most un-Blakean fashion to recommend to poets the mastery of eliciting “Vulgar Passion,” since more readers are capable of experiencing it.