Saturday, January 28
The Book of Thel by William Blake
At the Harvard University Library there is an online copy of The Book of Thel by William Blake.
Everything was done by Blake who was a poet, an illustrator and was responsible for the publication.
Richard Dover explains The Book of Thel:
"Dated 1789, but probably engraved between 1788 and 1791, The Book of Thel is an intriguing allegorical counterpart to the Songs of Innocence.
Here Thel, a mythological figure associated with the daugher of Venus (Desire), is a young virginal figure, intrigued by the world of sex and experience, but she is frightened by the prospect.
In the course of the 'Book' she confronts various forms of created life - the Lilly, the Cloud, the Worm, the Clod of Clay - and asks them about the mysteries of mortal life: what is it like to be mortal, to live and to experience, but also to have to face the prospect of disillusionment, depair and death.
At the end of the 'Book' Thel almost summons the courage to enter the world of the Real, but at the last minute her nerve gives way, and she runs shrieking back to the sanctuary of immortality. In allegorical terms The Book of Thel presents the State of Innocence, confronted by the world of Experience.
Thel is, in one sense, a virginal goddess, pure and untouched by material reality, about to embark on the passage from childhood to adult maturity. Yet she is also, in metaphorical and archetypal form, a symbol of a state of mind or, better still, "State of Soul", a platonic essence intrigued by, but apprehensive of the realities of experience.
Through mythological personification Blake is able to express, in symbolic terms, aspects of innocence and experience which are difficult to express in other terms. Thel's final failure of nerve is, the poem suggests, to be pitied rather than applauded: 'Innocence' may well be an idyllic state but, "Without Contraries there is no Progression".
The Book of Thel can, therefore, be read on a number of levels, from being a literal exploration of various forms of innocence and hesitance (the child's reluctance to grow up), to more abstract and metaphorical levels, an allegorical exploration of the relationship between Thought and Action, or between the Immortality of the Idea or Image, and the mortality of lived experience."