William Blake. Queen Katherine's Dream, c.1825.

Pen and ink with watercolor; white and gold added for highlights, approximately 16 x 14 inches. National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, Washington D. C. Blake did three earlier versions of this scene: one in the 1780's, another in 1807, and a third in 1809.

The inspriration for Blake's illustration is the vision that comes to Queen Katherine in Act IV, scene ii of Henry VIII. The two figures with their heads bowed are Queen Katherine and her usher, Griffith.

Katherine, gravely ill, asks Griffith to

Cause the musicians play me that sad note
I named my knell, whilst I sit meditating
On that celestial harmony I go to.

While she sleeps, this vision comes to her:

The Vision

Enter, solemnly tripping one after another, six personages clad in white robes wearing on their heads garlands of bays, and golden vizards on their faces, branches of bays or palm in their hands. They first congee [bow] unto her, then dance; and, at certain changes, the first two hold a garland over her head; at which the other four make reverent curtsies. Then the two that held the garland deliver the same to the other next two, who observe the same order in their changes, and holding the garland over her head; which done, they deliver the same garland to the last two, who likewise observe the same order; at which (as it were by inspiration) she makes (in her sleep) signs of rejoicing and holdeth up her hands to heaven. and so in their dancing vanish, carrying the garland with them. The music continues.

Katherine asks Griffith if he has seen this masque-like vision, which she interprets thus:

Saw you not even now a blessed troop
Invite me to a banquet, whose bright faces
Cast thousand beams upon me like the sun?
They promised me eternal happiness
And brought me garlands, Griffith, which I feel
I am not worthy yet to wear; I shall assuredly.