'To Tirzah' by William Blake
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Songs of Experience1789Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free:
Then what have I to do with thee?The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blowd in the morn; in evening died
But Mercy changed Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-deceiving tears.
Didst blind my Nostrils Eyes & EarsDidst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free.
Then what have I to do with thee?
Editor 1 Interpretation
To Tirzah by William Blake: A Poetic Exploration of Innocence and Experience
William Blake is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers today. Among his most famous poems is "To Tirzah," a short yet powerful piece that explores themes of innocence, experience, and the journey from one to the other. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deeper into the meaning and significance of "To Tirzah" and explore some of the key ideas and symbols that Blake uses to convey his message.
The Poem: An Introduction
Before we dive into our analysis, let's take a moment to appreciate the poem itself. "To Tirzah" is a short lyric poem consisting of just four stanzas, each containing four lines. The poem is addressed to a person named Tirzah, who is likely a fictional or symbolic figure rather than a real person. The language of the poem is simple and direct, with a clear rhythm and rhyme scheme that gives it a musical quality. The poem begins:
Whate'er is born of mortal birth
Must be consumed with the earth,
To rise from generation free:
Then what have I to do with thee?
From these opening lines, we can already sense that the poem is concerned with the cycle of life and death, and the idea that everything that is born must eventually return to the earth. The speaker then poses the question, "What have I to do with thee?" which sets up the central conflict of the poem. Let's explore this conflict in more detail.
Innocence vs. Experience
One of the central themes of "To Tirzah" is the tension between innocence and experience. This is a common theme in Blake's work, and it reflects his belief that the journey from innocence to experience is a necessary and inevitable part of human development. In "To Tirzah," the speaker is addressing someone who is presumably still in a state of innocence, and is therefore unable to understand the speaker's experiences:
The sexes sprung from shame and pride,
Blow'd in the morn, in evening died;
But mercy changed death into sleep;
The sexes rose to work and weep.
Here, the speaker is referring to the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible, and how their disobedience led to shame and the knowledge of good and evil. The reference to "mercy" suggests that while the Fall may have brought about suffering and death, it also brought the possibility of redemption and spiritual growth. The speaker then goes on to describe the experience of life in the world, with its struggles and hardships, and how these experiences shape and transform us:
Thou, mother of my mortal part,
With cruelty didst mould my heart,
And with false self-deceiving tears
Didst bind my nostrils, eyes, and ears.
The speaker here is addressing Tirzah as the metaphorical mother of his mortal part, suggesting that she represents the state of innocence from which he has emerged. He accuses her of cruelty for molding his heart in a way that made him vulnerable to the world's harshness, and for binding his senses so that he could not fully experience the world around him. The use of the word "false" suggests that the innocence represented by Tirzah is illusory, and that true innocence must be earned through experience.
The Importance of Contraries
Another important theme in Blake's work is the idea of contraries, or the coexistence of opposites. In "To Tirzah," we see this theme reflected in the contrast between innocence and experience, as well as in the image of the lamb and the tiger:
A tiger stalking through the night,
Rob'd in the stars that shine so bright,
And with eternal eyelids apart
Beholds the visions of the heart.
A lamb fetch'd from the fold and slain
His glory staineth the virgin plain;
Weep not thou, little lamb, he wept,
But thy tears shall never be dry'd, wept.
Here, the speaker juxtaposes the image of the tiger, which represents power, strength, and the darker aspects of human nature, with the image of the lamb, which represents innocence, vulnerability, and sacrifice. The tiger's eternal eyelids suggest a kind of cosmic awareness, while the lamb's tears symbolize the human capacity for empathy and compassion. The fact that the lamb's tears will never be dried suggests that the human capacity for compassion is infinite, and that it is through this capacity that we may transcend the limitations of our mortal existence.
"To Tirzah" is a poem that rewards close reading and careful consideration. Through its exploration of themes of innocence and experience, contraries, and the cycle of life and death, it offers a profound meditation on the human condition and the journey from ignorance to enlightenment. Blake's use of vivid imagery, simple yet powerful language, and musical rhythm and rhyme make the poem a joy to read, while its underlying philosophical depth invites us to contemplate the deeper truths of existence. Whether we read it as a celebration of human resilience and compassion, or as a warning against the dangers of complacency and ignorance, "To Tirzah" is a poem that continues to speak to readers across generations and cultures.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To Tirzah: A Masterpiece of William Blake
William Blake, one of the most renowned poets of the Romantic era, has left an indelible mark on the world of literature with his unique style and themes. His works are known for their deep philosophical insights, mystical elements, and vivid imagery. Among his many masterpieces, Poetry To Tirzah stands out as a powerful and moving poem that captures the essence of human emotions and the beauty of life.
Written in 1789, Poetry To Tirzah is a short but profound poem that expresses Blake's love and affection for his younger sister, Tirzah. The poem is divided into two stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The first stanza is a celebration of life and the beauty of nature, while the second stanza is a reflection on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death.
The poem begins with a vivid description of the beauty of nature, as Blake addresses his sister Tirzah:
"Whate'er is born of mortal birth Must be consumed with the earth, To rise from generation free: Then what have I to do with thee?"
These lines convey the idea that everything that is born on this earth is destined to die and return to the earth. However, the poet suggests that there is something beyond this cycle of birth and death, something that transcends the limitations of mortality. This is the theme that runs throughout the poem, as Blake explores the idea of the eternal soul and the power of love.
In the second stanza, Blake reflects on the inevitability of death and the transience of life. He writes:
"The sexes sprung from shame and pride, Blowed in the morn, in evening died; But mercy changed death into sleep; The sexes rose to work and weep."
These lines suggest that life is a fleeting moment, a brief interlude between birth and death. However, the poet suggests that there is a way to transcend this cycle of life and death, through the power of love and compassion. He suggests that love is the key to unlocking the mysteries of life and death, and that it is through love that we can find meaning and purpose in our existence.
The poem ends with a powerful and moving declaration of love, as Blake addresses his sister Tirzah:
"Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another gives its ease, And builds a heaven in hell's despair."
These lines capture the essence of Blake's philosophy, as he suggests that love is the ultimate goal of human existence. He suggests that love is not selfish or self-centered, but rather it is a selfless act that seeks to bring joy and happiness to others. He suggests that love is the key to building a heaven on earth, even in the midst of despair and suffering.
In conclusion, Poetry To Tirzah is a masterpiece of William Blake that captures the essence of human emotions and the beauty of life. Through his vivid imagery and profound insights, Blake explores the themes of mortality, love, and the eternal soul. He suggests that life is a fleeting moment, but that there is a way to transcend the limitations of mortality through the power of love and compassion. This poem is a testament to Blake's genius and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in a few short lines. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and move readers to this day.
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