In comparison to Blake's later prophetic books, The Book of Thel is relatively short and is easier to understand; this edition is entertainingly read by producer-narrator Jason Rosette.
About the Book of Thel
The Book of Thel was most likely composed between 1788 and 1790. Composed of 14-syllable lines, this short poem was first published as a series of eight plates with illuminated text designed by Blake himself. Following an earlier, lesser-known poem, "Tiriel", The Book of Thel suggests a romantic-visionary response to the timeless question regarding the acquisition of wisdom and knowledge. The poem became known as one of Blake's “Prophetic Books” for its existential interrogations.
The poem follows Thel, a young shepherdess who wanders through a fantastical pastoral world called the Vales of Har, yearning to understand her purpose. Primarily concerned with her own mortality, various natural entities in her environment, including a cloud and a clod of dirt, offer her insights. The poem is significant for its animistic-natural representation of divinity and its direct handling of the question of existence.
About the author
William Blake (28 November 1757 - 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. What he called his prophetic works were said by 20th-century critic Northrop Frye to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language".