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“The Book of Thei” by William Blake Essay

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2021

The poem “The book of Thei” written by William Blake makes the reader think about the purpose in life. The poem is written in the form of dialogue between the virgin who complains about her fear of death and Thei who symbolizes an angel sitting on the airy thrown. The author applies direct formal structure in the poem because every paragraph is the logical continuation of the previous one. The setting of the dialogue (virgin being on earth and Thei being in heave) represents the desire of all humans to talk to God, to find out what will happen to them after death, and what purpose they serve while living. Blake used a lot of symbols and imaginary language in his poem. For example, he draws the picture of the “weeping virgin, trembling, knees before the risen sun”. When the reader goes through this line, he gets the image of young virgin praying at the sunrise. Even though there is no indication of the virgin’s age, it seems that she is very young because of her romantic nature: she enjoys smelling the “tender flowers”, listening to the “warbling birds”.

The poem can be divided into three parts. The first part (introductory) is the question of the virgin why nobody hears her complains. The second part (the body) is the answer of Thei to her concern and the reaction of the virgin. Thei tells, “We arise in a golden band, and never part, but walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers.” This line symbolizes the life after death according to Christianity: when people die, their souls are united in heaven. Human existence does not end with death, because when people pass away, “it is to tenfold life, to love, to peace, and raptures holy.” The second part ends with the words of the virgin that she is not like Thei and is hesitant about the purpose of her life. The third part of the poem (concluding) ends with the following phrase: “everything that lives, lives not alone nor for itself.” The author wants to say that everybody has the purpose in life even though many people are not aware of it.

The major theme of the poem is death, purpose of life, and life after death. Virgin represents a human, the person who fears death because she knows nothing about it. The Thei, or the Cloud, is an angel who comforts humans in this question. Of course, not a single person saw an angel, even though many of people desire to be on the place of virgin and ask questions to which nobody knows answers. The phrase of Thei “then if thou art the food of worms, how great thy use, how great thy blessing!” bears deep philosophical meaning. Even if the purpose of life is to feed the worms after death, it is also a blessing because nobody and nothing lives for itself. Everything in this world is interrelated and depends on each other. Recalling the Buddhism writing on death, everything and everybody goes in circles and when somebody dies he will be reborn. Death leads to life and life leads to death. This is the message William Blake tries to deliver through his poem.

When I have read the poem for the first time, its meaning was unclear to me. While reading it for the second time, I sensed the intentions of William Blake: he wanted to show the reader that death is not to be feared because it is not the end, but rather the part of natural circle. The virgin sought the answer to the question we all are concerned with. The Bible tells that believers will find eternal life after death of body; Buddhism teaches that our death is the beginning of someone’s life. However, nobody can tell for sure what is truly happening. In his poem, William Blake, comforts the reader showing that there is no need to be concerned with this question because each of us already serves the specific purpose.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '“The Book of Thei” by William Blake'. 17 September.

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