This pastel-hued watercolor is the last of William Blake’s six illustrations for John Milton’s 1645 poem L’Allegro, or Happiness. As the sun sets, a young poet falls asleep, pen in hand, along the banks of a stream. His body, though immersed in the landscape, transcends it as he leaves the waking world. Blake gives form to the unconscious poet’s visions as a “more bright sun”—the Sun of Imagination—filling the upper half of the sheet.
William Blake (1757–1827), The Youthful Poet’s Dream, 1816–20. Watercolor, over graphite, on paper. Purchased with the assistance of the Fellows with the special support of Mrs. Landon K. Thorne and Mr. Paul Mellon. 1949.4:6