Friday, November 04, 2011

Thel 6


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

She wanderd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, listning
Dolours & lamentations: waiting oft beside a dewy grave
She stood in silence. listning to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave plot she came, & there she sat down.
And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit.

Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
Or the glistning Eye to the poison of a smile!
Why are Eyelids stord with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
Or an Eye of gifts & graces, show'ring fruits & coined gold!
Why a Tongue impress'd with honey from every wind?
Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror trembling & affright.
Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy!
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?

The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek.
Fled back unhinderd till she came into the vales of Har

The End (Page 6 of Erdman)

The northern bar: From the beginning of time Eternity and
Time are the primary divisions of kinds of reality. Materalists
have considered Reality to be in Time, while spiritually minded
people consider that the primary Reality resides in Eternity.

Thel has been living in 'Paradise' (called the 'vales of Har'),
but she wants to have a look at the other side. The 'Northern
Bar' opened the 'eternal gates' allowing Thel to 'have a look'

Blake likely had several sources for the 'northern bar', but
none better than one of his favorite English poets. The Faerie
Queene by Edmund Spenser includes these lines:

"It cited was in fruitful soul of old
And girt in with two walls on either side
The one of iron, the other of bright gold
That none might thorough breake, nor over-stride;
And double gates it had which opened wide,
By which both in and out men might pass.
The one faire and fresh, the other old and dride:"

This has been described as the northern and southern bar.

Plate 6 of Thel describes what she saw there and how she reacted.
She saw the '
the land unknown', the 'land of sorrows & of tears'
(commonly known as 'this vale of tears'), 'the land of clouds'.
Well she didn't think much of it.

Blake gave another instance of that (nymphatic) reaction in the
Sea of Time and Space; there you see the northern stairway with
one nymph vigorously climbing the stairs against the stream of
those headed for the 'sea'.

Thel came many years before the Arlington Tempera, but the idea,
the concept had not changed. In Blake's myth those in Eternity
may choose to come down into material life. In fact the story
(like the story of the Bible) concerns the Fall and the Return.
You might say that Thel chose not to fall. The rest of us are
here because we fell.

Scholars see a close relationship between Thel and the Fable of
Cupid and Psyche. The influence of the Greek myth has been seen
in many of Blake's creations. In particular Irene Chayes of
Silver Springs MD wrote an essay called 'The Presence of Cupid
and Psyche, published in Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic. She
dealt comprensively with the influence on Blake of the poem.

Among many other subjects she discussed is the relationship evident
betwen Thel and Psyche; both ventured a descent to the world and a return
to Paradise. Psyche fared better than Thel: she returned to be deified by
her lover, while Thel went back only to the lonely vals of Har.

Ideas of life, death, world, heaven, etc. fill Blake's works.
Here's a poem he wrote:
[Dedication to Blake's Illustrations to Blair's Grave, printed 1808]         
(Erdman 480)

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