'Book of Thel, The' by William Blake

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1Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
2Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?
3Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
4Or Love in a golden bowl?


1.1The daughters of the Seraphim led round their sunny flocks,
1.2All but the youngest: she in paleness sought the secret air,
1.3To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
1.4Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard,
1.5And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew:

1.6"O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water,
1.7Why fade these children of the spring, born but to smile and fall?
1.8Ah! Thel is like a wat'ry bow, and like a parting cloud;
1.9Like a reflection in a glass; like shadows in the water;
1.10Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant's face;
1.11Like the dove's voice; like transient day; like music in the air.
1.12Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head,
1.13And gentle sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
1.14Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time."
1.15The Lily of the valley, breathing in the humble grass,
1.16Answer'd the lovely maid and said: "I am a wat'ry weed,
1.17And I am very small and love to dwell in lowly vales;
1.18So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head.
1.19Yet I am visited from heaven, and he that smiles on all
1.20Walks in the valley and each morn over me spreads his hand,
1.21Saying, 'Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily-flower,
1.22Thou gentle maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
1.23For thou shalt be clothed in light, and fed with morning manna,
1.24Till summer's heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs
1.25To flourish in eternal vales.' Then why should Thel complain?
1.26Why should the mistress of the vales of Har utter a sigh?"

1.27She ceas'd and smil'd in tears, then sat down in her silver shrine.

1.28Thel answer'd: "O thou little virgin of the peaceful valley,
1.29Giving to those that cannot crave, the voiceless, the o'ertired;
1.30Thy breath doth nourish the innocent lamb, he smells thy milky garments,
1.31He crops thy flowers while thou sittest smiling in his face,
1.32Wiping his mild and meekin mouth from all contagious taints.
1.33Thy wine doth purify the golden honey; thy perfume,
1.34Which thou dost scatter on every little blade of grass that springs,
1.35Revives the milked cow, and tames the fire-breathing steed.
1.36But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at the rising sun:
1.37I vanish from my pearly throne, and who shall find my place?"

1.38"Queen of the vales," the Lily answer'd, "ask the tender cloud,
1.39And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the morning sky,
1.40And why it scatters its bright beauty thro' the humid air.
1.41Descend, O little Cloud, and hover before the eyes of Thel."

1.42The Cloud descended, and the Lily bow'd her modest head
1.43And went to mind her numerous charge among the verdant grass.


2.1"O little Cloud," the virgin said, "I charge thee tell to me
2.2Why thou complainest not when in one hour thou fade away:
2.3Then we shall seek thee, but not find. Ah! Thel is like to thee:
2.4I pass away: yet I complain, and no one hears my voice."

2.5The Cloud then shew'd his golden head and his bright form emerg'd,
2.6Hovering and glittering on the air before the face of Thel.

2.7"O virgin, know'st thou not our steeds drink of the golden springs
2.8Where Luvah doth renew his horses? Look'st thou on my youth,
2.9And fearest thou, because I vanish and am seen no more,
2.10Nothing remains? O maid, I tell thee, when I pass away
2.11It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace and raptures holy:
2.12Unseen descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers,
2.13And court the fair-eyed dew to take me to her shining tent:
2.14The weeping virgin trembling kneels before the risen sun,
2.15Till we arise link'd in a golden band and never part,
2.16But walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers."

2.17"Dost thou, O little Cloud? I fear that I am not like thee,
2.18For I walk thro' the vales of Har, and smell the sweetest flowers,
2.19But I feed not the little flowers; I hear the warbling birds,
2.20But I feed not the warbling birds; they fly and seek their food:
2.21But Thel delights in these no more, because I fade away;
2.22And all shall say, 'Without a use this shining woman liv'd,
2.23Or did she only live to be at death the food of worms?' "

2.24The Cloud reclin'd upon his airy throne and answer'd thus:

2.25"Then if thou art the food of worms, O virgin of the skies,
2.26How great thy use, how great thy blessing! Every thing that lives
2.27Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
2.28The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice,
2.29Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen."

2.30The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lily's leaf,
2.31And the bright Cloud sail'd on, to find his partner in the vale.


3.1Then Thel astonish'd view'd the Worm upon its dewy bed.

3.2"Art thou a Worm? Image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?
3.3I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lily's leaf
3.4Ah! weep not, little voice, thou canst not speak, but thou canst weep.
3.5Is this a Worm? I see thee lay helpless and naked, weeping,
3.6And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother's smiles."
3.7The Clod of Clay heard the Worm's voice and rais'd her pitying head:
3.8She bow'd over the weeping infant, and her life exhal'd
3.9In milky fondness: then on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes.

3.10"O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves.
3.11Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed.
3.12My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark;
3.13But he, that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head,
3.14And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,
3.15And says: 'Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee
3.16And I have given thee a crown that none can take away.'
3.17But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
3.18I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love."

3.19The daughter of beauty wip'd her pitying tears with her white veil,
3.20And said: "Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep.
3.21That God would love a Worm I knew, and punish the evil foot
3.22That wilful bruis'd its helpless form; but that he cherish'd it
3.23With milk and oil I never knew, and therefore did I weep;
3.24And I complain'd in the mild air, because I fade away,
3.25And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot."

3.26"Queen of the vales," the matron Clay answer'd, "I heard thy sighs,
3.27And all thy moans flew o'er my roof, but I have call'd them down.
3.28Wilt thou, O Queen, enter my house? 'Tis given thee to enter
3.29And to return: fear nothing, enter with thy virgin feet."


4.1The eternal gates' terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
4.2Thel enter'd in and saw the secrets of the land unknown.
4.3She saw the couches of the dead, and where the fibrous roots
4.4Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
4.5A land of sorrows and of tears where never smile was seen.

4.6She wander'd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, list'ning
4.7Dolours and lamentations; waiting oft beside a dewy grave
4.8She stood in silence, list'ning to the voices of the ground,
4.9Till to her own grave plot she came, and there she sat down,
4.10And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit.

4.11"Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
4.12Or the glist'ning Eye to the poison of a smile?
4.13Why are Eyelids stor'd with arrows ready drawn,
4.14Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
4.15Or an Eye of gifts and graces show'ring fruits and coined gold?
4.16Why a Tongue impress'd with honey from every wind?
4.17Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
4.18Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror, trembling, and affright?
4.19Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy?
4.20Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?"

4.21The Virgin started from her seat, and with a shriek
4.22Fled back unhinder'd till she came into the vales of Har.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Journey into the Mystical World of William Blake's "Book of Thel"

From the very beginning of human civilization, poetry has been a medium that has helped people to express their deepest feelings, emotions, and beliefs. Poems have the power to transport readers to a different world, to make them see things from a different perspective, and to evoke emotions that they might not have felt before.

One poet who was a master of this art was William Blake. His poetry has always been known for its mystical and visionary quality, and his work "The Book of Thel" is no exception. This poem is a journey into the mind of a young virgin named Thel, who is confronted with the harsh realities of life.

In this literary criticism, we will explore the themes, symbols, and literary techniques that Blake uses in "The Book of Thel." We will also delve into the deeper meaning of the poem and what it tells us about human nature, spirituality, and the cycle of life and death.

The Themes of "The Book of Thel"

One of the main themes of "The Book of Thel" is the contrast between innocence and experience. Thel, the protagonist of the poem, represents innocence. She is a virgin who has never experienced the harsh realities of life. She is content living in the world of her imagination, where everything is beautiful and perfect.

However, when she is confronted with the harsh realities of life, she realizes that she is not prepared to face them. She becomes overwhelmed with fear and decides to retreat back into the world of her imagination. This represents the conflict between innocence and experience, where innocence is unable to cope with the harsh realities of life.

Another theme that is explored in "The Book of Thel" is the cycle of life and death. Thel is confronted with the idea that everything in life must die eventually. She realizes that even the beautiful and innocent things in life, like flowers and lambs, must eventually die. This represents the idea that life is a cycle, and death is a necessary part of that cycle.

The Symbols of "The Book of Thel"

Blake uses several symbols in "The Book of Thel" to convey his message. One of the most important symbols in the poem is the flower. The flower represents beauty, innocence, and life. Thel is initially drawn to the flower because of its beauty, but she is later confronted with the idea that even the most beautiful things must eventually wither and die.

Another important symbol in the poem is the worm. The worm represents death and decay. Thel is initially repulsed by the worm, but she later realizes that the worm is a necessary part of the cycle of life and death. Without death, there can be no new life.

The Literary Techniques of "The Book of Thel"

Blake uses several literary techniques in "The Book of Thel" to convey his message. One of the most important techniques is repetition. He repeats certain phrases and words throughout the poem to emphasize their importance. For example, he repeats the phrase "Oh Thel" several times throughout the poem, to emphasize Thel's importance as the protagonist.

Another important literary technique that Blake uses is imagery. He uses vivid and descriptive language to paint a picture of the world that Thel inhabits. For example, he describes the flower in great detail, using words like "blue," "bright," and "delicate" to convey its beauty.

The Deeper Meaning of "The Book of Thel"

"The Book of Thel" is a complex and multi-layered poem that has many different interpretations. One interpretation is that it represents the struggle between the material world and the spiritual world. Thel is torn between her desire for the beauty and innocence of the material world and her desire for the spiritual world, which represents a higher form of existence.

Another interpretation of the poem is that it represents the struggle between life and death. Thel is confronted with the idea that everything in life must die eventually, and she struggles to come to terms with this reality. This could represent the idea that life is a journey that must end in death, and that we must all come to terms with our own mortality.

Overall, "The Book of Thel" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most important themes and ideas in human existence. It is a journey into the mystical world of William Blake, a world that is both beautiful and terrifying, innocent and experienced. It is a poem that will stay with readers long after they have finished reading it, and it will continue to resonate with them for many years to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Book of Thel is a masterpiece written by the legendary poet and artist William Blake. This book is a collection of poems that explore the themes of innocence, experience, and the human condition. The book is divided into several sections, each of which explores a different aspect of these themes. In this article, we will explore the various themes and motifs in The Poetry Book of Thel and examine how they contribute to the overall meaning of the work.

The first section of the book is titled "The Clod of Clay." This section introduces us to Thel, the main character of the book. Thel is a young girl who is full of innocence and wonder. She is curious about the world around her and wants to explore it. However, she is also afraid of the unknown and is hesitant to leave her safe and familiar surroundings. This section sets the tone for the rest of the book and establishes the central theme of innocence.

The second section of the book is titled "The Lilly." In this section, Thel encounters a Lilly who is also full of innocence and wonder. The Lilly represents the beauty and fragility of life. Thel is fascinated by the Lilly and wants to know more about it. However, the Lilly tells Thel that it is destined to wither and die, which fills Thel with sadness and fear. This section explores the theme of mortality and the inevitability of death.

The third section of the book is titled "The Clod and the Pebble." This section explores the theme of love and the different ways in which it can be expressed. The Clod represents selfless love, while the Pebble represents selfish love. The Clod is willing to sacrifice itself for the good of others, while the Pebble is only concerned with its own desires. This section shows us that love can be both beautiful and destructive, depending on how it is expressed.

The fourth section of the book is titled "The Little Girl Lost." In this section, Thel becomes lost in the wilderness and encounters a little girl who is also lost. The little girl represents the lost innocence of childhood. Thel tries to comfort the little girl and help her find her way home, but ultimately fails. This section explores the theme of loss and the difficulty of finding one's way in the world.

The fifth section of the book is titled "The Little Girl Found." In this section, Thel finds the little girl she had encountered earlier and helps her find her way home. This section explores the theme of redemption and the possibility of finding one's way back to innocence and purity.

The final section of the book is titled "The Book of Thel." In this section, Thel encounters a series of beings who represent different aspects of the human condition. These beings include the Cloud, the Worm, the Clod, and the Pebble. Each of these beings offers Thel a different perspective on life and death. This section explores the theme of experience and the importance of gaining wisdom and understanding.

Overall, The Poetry Book of Thel is a powerful and thought-provoking work that explores the themes of innocence, experience, and the human condition. Through the character of Thel and her encounters with various beings, Blake offers us a glimpse into the complexities of life and the struggle to find meaning and purpose in a world that can be both beautiful and cruel. The book is a testament to Blake's genius as a poet and artist and remains a timeless masterpiece that continues to inspire and challenge readers to this day.

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