The Book of Thel
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?
The daughters of the Seraphim led round their sunny flocks--
All but the youngest: she in paleness sought
the secret air,
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
Down by the river of Adona her soft
voice is heard,
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew:--
`O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring, born
but to smile and fall?
Ah! Thel is like a wat'ry bow, and like a parting cloud;
Like a reflection in a glass; like
shadows in the water;
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant's face;
Like the dove's voice; like
transient day; like music in the air
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head,
sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
Of Him that walketh in the garden in the evening
The Lily of the Valley, breathing in the humble grass,
Answerèd the lovely maid and said: `I am a wat'ry
And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches
on my head.
Yet I am visited from heaven, and He that smiles on all
Walks in the valley, and each morn
over me spreads His hand,
Saying, "Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily-flower,
maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
For thou shalt be clothèd in light, and fed with morning manna,
summer's heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs,
To flourish in eternal vales." Then why
should Thel complain?
Why should the mistress of the vales of Har utter a sigh?'
She ceas'd, and smil'd
in tears, then sat down in her silver shrine.
Thel answer'd: `O thou little Virgin of the peaceful valley,
Giving to those that cannot crave, the voiceless,
Thy breath doth nourish the innocent lamb, he smells thy milky garments,
He crops thy flowers
while thou sittest smiling in his face,
Wiping his mild and meeking mouth from all contagious taints.
wine doth purify the golden honey; thy perfume,
Which thou dost scatter on every little blade of grass that
Revives the milkèd cow, and tames the fire-breathing steed.
But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at
the rising sun:
I vanish from my pearly throne, and who shall find my place?'
`Queen of the vales,' the Lily answer'd, `ask the tender Cloud,
And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the
And why it scatters its bright beauty thro' the humid air.
Descend, O little Cloud, and hover
before the eyes of Thel.'
The Cloud descended, and the Lily bowèd her modest head,
And went to mind her numerous charge
among the verdant grass.
`O little Cloud,' the Virgin said, `I charge thee tell to me
Why thou complainest not, when in one hour
thou fade away:
Then we shall seek thee, but not find. Ah! Thel is like to thee:
I pass away yet I complain,
and no one hears my voice.'
The Cloud then show'd his golden head and his bright form emerg'd,
and glittering on the air before the face of Thel.
`O Virgin, know'st thou not our steeds drink of the golden springs
Where Luvah doth renew his horses?
Look'st thou on my youth,
And fearest thou, because I vanish and am seen no more,
O Maid, I tell thee, when I pass away,
It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace, and raptures holy:
descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers,
And court the fair-eyed dew, to take me to her
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.'
`Dost thou, O little Cloud? I fear that I am not like thee,
For I walk thro' the vales of Har, and smell the
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?" '