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The Book of Thel

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


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

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

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

1.28 Thel answer'd: 'O thou little virgin of the peaceful valley,
1.29 Giving to those that cannot crave, the voiceless, the o'ertired;
1.30 Thy breath doth nourish the innocent lamb, he smells thy milky garments,
1.31 He crops thy flowers while thou sittest smiling in his face,
1.32 Wiping his mild and meekin mouth from all contagious taints.
1.33 Thy wine doth purify the golden honey; thy perfume,
1.34 Which thou dost scatter on every little blade of grass that springs,
1.35 Revives the milked cow, and tames the fire-breathing steed.
1.36 But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at the rising sun:
1.37 I 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,
1.39 And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the morning sky,
1.40 And why it scatters its bright beauty thro' the humid air.
1.41 Descend, O little Cloud, and hover before the eyes of Thel.'

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


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

2.5 The Cloud then shew'd his golden head and his bright form emerg'd,
2.6 Hovering 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
2.8 Where Luvah doth renew his horses? Look'st thou on my youth,
2.9 And fearest thou, because I vanish and am seen no more,
2.10 Nothing remains? O maid, I tell thee, when I pass away
2.11 It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace and raptures holy:
2.12 Unseen descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers,
2.13 And court the fair-eyed dew to take me to her shining tent:
2.14 The weeping virgin trembling kneels before the risen sun,
2.15 Till we arise link'd in a golden band and never part,
2.16 But walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers.'

2.17 'Dost thou, O little Cloud? I fear that I am not like thee,
2.18 For I walk thro' the vales of Har, and smell the sweetest flowers,
2.19 But I feed not the little flowers; I hear the warbling birds,
2.20 But I feed not the warbling birds; they fly and seek their food:
2.21 But Thel delights in these no more, because I fade away;
2.22 And all shall say, 'Without a use this shining woman liv'd,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:34 min read

William Blake

William Blake was an English poet, painter and printmaker. more…

All William Blake poems | William Blake Books

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