“The mineral springs of Ems (anciently Eimetz)”

“…to a late-twentieth-century reader, with a background of Symbolist writing, surrealist art and cinematic dream sequences, The Earthly Paradise seems part of a tradition of non-literal communication, tricks of meaning. Even Morris’s creation of his own archaic language, a source of bemusement (or amusement) to his critics, seems less unlikely to anyone brought up on the verbal shock-tactics of an Ezra Pound or a James Joyce…It was C.S. Lewis in 1937, of the generation of the First World War, who first argued persuasively for Morris as a poet more demanding than he seems: “Morris may build a world in some ways happier than the real one; but happiness puts as stern a question as misery. It is this dialectic of desire, presented with no solution, no lies, no panacea, which gives him his peculiar bittersweet quality, and also his solidity. He has faced the fact.”…

…On many of Morris’s illuminated pages the pictorial decoration swims into the lettering…It is easy to relate it to the world of Lewis Carroll in its juxtapositions of the known and disconcerting. It has something of the graphic visionary intensity of Blake. But the way Morris mixes his letters and his images to make a very secret and suggestive visual landscape, a blurring of feeling and a layering of memory, is really much closer to French Surrealism and the haunting picture poems of Karel Teige and the Czech avant-garde.”

Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Eight: Bad Ems 1869-70

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