Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thel's Motto

The Book of Thel
is a poem by William Blake, dated 1789 .... It is illustrated by his own plates, and is relatively short and easy to understand, compared to his later prophetic consists of eight plates executed in illuminated printing. Fifteen copies of the original print of 1789-1793 are known. Two copies bearing a watermark of 1815 are more elaborately colored than the others.

The silver rod and golden bowl can be interpreted as Blake's rejection of the conventional church (Church of England), in fact of all churches.
The eagle knows only the sky and must ask the mole to gain knowledge about the pit; likewise, Thel knows only innocence and eternity and must be endowed mortality if she wants to learn about the ways of the mortal beings on Earth.

[Image]PLATE i

THEL'S Motto,

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

"An enigmatic quatrain, and one that opens more questions than it answers. The Eagle, from above, has a theoretical knowledge of the "pit" (i.e., worldly experience) which he sees from afar, but it is the blind mole who, even though he is blind, really experiences life in the pit. Which, therefore, of the two forms of knowledge, theoretical and experienced, is better?

The last two lines question whether Wisdom and Love really are, or should be, contained within physical form and moral experience: aren't they best left as untainted spiritual essences, uncorrupted by Experience? The "silver rod" is presumably intended as a phallic reference, whereas the "golden bowl" (the flesh) is not necessarily phallic."

This from William Blake: A Helpfile


In an excellent post on Romanticism the writer offers several meanings for Thel's Motto; here's one of them:

"One reading would be that it asserts a kind of environmentalism, that the mole knows about the pit better than the eagle because it’s the mole’s habitat.".

Read in toto much light is cast on Thel's Motto.


In “The Book of Thel:” An Analysis of Death as a Progenitor of Fear

there are many more important ideas re Thel's Motto.

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