William Blake – The Book of Thel – 3

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Book of Thel” continues

“O virgin, know’st thou not our steeds drink of the golden springs/ Where Luvah doth renew his horses?” Luvah” is.. and here is the first mention of the..one of the basic characters in Blake’s system – there are four main characters – “Luvah” – Heart, emotions, love-ah – Luvah – Urizen– Intellect (sometimes too sharp, Luvah sometimes too schluppy, but in balance, they’re correct, out of balance, grabbing everything, they throw everything out of balance). There’s also Urthona“, the Imagination and Tharmas“, the Body. – “O virgin, know’st thou not…” – So Four Zoas, four principles four basic divisions of human characteristic, sort of like a Jungian system, or similar to the Buddhist system – the Buddhists, as you know, have five Buddha families representing similar principles – Vajra – intellect, Lotus – heart – Karma – work work body – Ratna – expansiveness, lusciousness increase, and Padma – heart. Did I get them all? I think so.. What did I leave out? buddha? – and then buddha-connected to earth – earthiness Buddha family, Vajra family, Karma family, Ratna family, Padma family. You know in town (in Boulder) they have these societies – the Padma Society – people that are emotional, take care of everybody, and then the Vajra Society make plans, and then there’s the Karma Society that run the real estate, and then there’s the Ratna Society that throws parties. You know. that’s actually true. So Blake had such a system here and this is the first mention of it.

“O virgin, know’st thou not our steeds drink of the golden springs” – (“the golden springs” are emotions – love and hate) – “our steeds drink of the golden springs/Where Luvah doth renew his horses?” – (“Luvah” – the emotion) – “Look’st thou on my youth,/ And fearest thou because I vanish and am seen no more,/ Nothing remains? O maid, I tell thee, when I pass away,/ It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace, and raptures holy:/ Unseen descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers,/ And court the fair eyed dew, to take me to her shining tent:/ The weeping virgin trembling kneels before the risen sun,/ Till we arise link’d in a golden band, and never part,/ But walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers.”

Now Thel speaks, at the top of the page: “Dost thou O little Cloud? I fear that I am not like thee;/For I walk through the vales of Har and smell the sweetest flowers,/But I feed not the little flowers; I hear the warbling birds,/But I feed not the warbling birds; they fly and seek their food;/But Thel delights in these no more, because I fade away,/And all shall say, ‘Without a use this shining woman liv’d,/Or did she only live to be at death the food of worms?'”

“The Cloud reclind upon his airy throne and answer’d thus:/”Then if thou art the food of worms, O virgin of the skies,/How great thy use, how great thy blessing! Every thing that lives/Lives not alone, nor for itself; fear not, and I will call/The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice./ Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen.”/The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lily’s leaf,/ And the bright Cloud saild on, to find his partner in the vale.”

And if you look up the illustrated Erdman edition of this (or at U(niversity of) C(olorado) library, the facsimilie edition), you’ll find all the pictures of the worms and… all the characters mentioned, illustrated by Blake, with beautiful scenes. I don’t happen to have any with me.

Student: Do you see pictures of Thel?

AG: Yeah, pictures of Thel looking down, like a big lily above her, and she’s got a big lily-like dress, pink, and she’s looking down on – a little silver baby representing the worm sitting on the lap of a little robed-mummy, which is the clod of clay.

“Then Thel astonish’d view’d the Worm upon its dewy bed./ “Art thou a Worm? Image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?/I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lily’s leaf;

– (So that ‘s what Blake has painted – an infant wrapped in a lily’s leaf) – “Ah, weep not, little voice, thou can’st not speak, but thou can’st weep./ Is this a Worm? I see thee lay helpless & naked, weeping,/And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother’s smiles.”

The Clod of Clay heard the Worm’s voice, & raisd her pitying head;/She bow’d over the weeping infant, and her life exhal’d/In milky fondness; then on Thel she fix’d her humble eyes./ O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves;/Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed;/My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark,/ But he that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head,/And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,/And says..” ( this is the clay, the earth itself, speaking) – “Thou mother of my children,” – (so the clay is the mother of all the children of earth) – “I have loved thee
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away.’/But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;/I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.”- (because the dirt is too dumb to know what is happening to it)

Student: It’s got to have a will?

AG: Well, it functions, you know – “My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark”. But rains pour upon it, and oils and balms, and birds, and corpses and flower seeds and..”how this is, sweet maid….I cannot know”

“The daughter of beauty wip’d her pitying tears with her white veil,/And said: “Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep./That God would love a Worm, I knew, and punish the evil foot/That, wilful, bruis’d its helpless form; but that he cherish’d it/With milk and oil I never knew; and therefore did I weep,/And I complaind in the mild air, because I fade away,/And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot. “Queen of the vales,” the matron Clay answered, “I heard thy sighs,/And all thy moans flew o’er my roof, but I have call’d them down./Wilt thou, O Queen” – (says the clod of clay), “enter my house? ’tis given thee to enter/And to return: fear nothing, enter with thy virgin feet.”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-four-and-a-quarter. minutes in and continuing until approximately seventy-two-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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