Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/109

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ÆT. 32—33.]
77
THEL.

uselessness—A little cloud descends and taketh shape— Shows how he weds the evening dew and feeds the flowers of earth—Tells of Love and Serviceableness—Thel replies in sorrow still—The Cloud invokes the lowly worm to answer her—Who appears in the form of a helpless child—A clod of clay pities her wailing cry—And shows how in her lowliness she blesses and is blessed—She summons Thel into her house—The grave's gates open—Thel, wandering, listens to the voices of the ground—Hears a sorrowing voice from her own grave-plot—Listens, and flees back.

The fault of the poem is the occasional tendency to vagueness of motive, to an expression of abstract emotions more legitimate for the sister art of music than for poetry, which must be definite, however deep and subtle. The tendency grew in Blake's after writings and overmastered him. But on this occasion the meaning which he is at the pains to define, with the beauty of much of the imagery and of the pervading sentiment, more than counterbalance any excess of the element of the Indefinite, especially when, as in the original, the poem is illumined by its own design, lucidly expository, harmonising with itself and with the verse it illustrates.

The original quarto consists of seven engraved pages, including the title, in size some six inches by four and a quarter. Four are illustrated by vignettes, the other two by ornamental head or tail-piece. The designs—Thel, the virgin sceptic, listening to the lily of the valley in the humble grass; to the golden cloud 'reclining on his airy throne;' to the worm upon her dewy bed; or kneeling over the personified clod of clay, an infant wrapped in lily's leaf; or gazing at the embracing clouds—are of the utmost sweetness; simple, expressive, grand; the colour slight, but pure and tender. The mere ornamental part of the title-page, of which the sky forms the framework, is a study for spontaneous easy grace and unobtrusive beauty. The effect of the whole, poem and design together, is as of a wise, wondrous, spiritual dream' or angel's reverie. The engraving of the letter-press differs