To Tirzah

Last updated

"To Tirzah", in the Cambridge copy of the Songs of Experience Blake To Tirza p52.jpg
"To Tirzah", in the Cambridge copy of the Songs of Experience

"To Tirzah" is a poem by William Blake that was published in his collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience . It is often described as the most difficult of the poems because it refers to an oblique character called "Tirzah", whose identity is not directly stated. It is a Hebrew name that appears in the Torah, meaning "she is my delight". According to Northrop Frye, Blake identified the name Tirzah with worldliness, because the name appears in the Bible to refer to both a rebellious town and to one of the Daughters of Zelophehad. [1] The latter story was about female inheritance rights which were linked to restrictions on marriage and the maintenance of tribal boundaries.


Tirzah symbolises human dependence on worldly sense-experience. The poem presents a contrast between the attractive pull of the five senses toward the finite world of "generation" and the opposing impulse toward the infinite spiritual realm that lies beyond physical experience. The physical senses numb direct spiritual perception, as in Blake's aphorism from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell : "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to Man as it is: infinite." The seductive attraction to the delight in sense experience is, from the point of view of the spirit which seeks its freedom in the infinitude, experienced as betrayal. Blake therefore took the name Tirzah to be a symbolic reference to worldly materialism, as opposed to the spiritual realm of Jerusalem. [1]

Particularly striking is the line "Didst close my tongue in senseless clay", which seems to imply that the authority of the artist's voice in Blake's view is that it has been freed from the prison of physicality and therefore comes from beyond this world. When the artist, who is by definition spiritually free, speaks with his tongue, the words that naturally emerge connote infinity.

Blake's illustration to the poem depicts two women supporting a naked semi-supine male figure who appears to be unconscious or dead. An elderly man prepares to pour liquid from a jug over the figure. On the elderly man's clothing the words "it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44) are written.


Whate'er is born of mortal birth
Must be consumèd with the earth,
To rise from generation free:
Then what have I to do with thee?

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.

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,

Didst 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?

References in the culture

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Blake</span> English poet and artist (1757–1827)

William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his life, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual art 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". His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. While he lived in London his entire life, except for three years spent in Felpham, he produced a diverse and symbolically rich collection of works, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God" or "human existence itself".

<i>Lokasenna</i> Eddic poem

Lokasenna is one of the poems of the Poetic Edda. The poem presents flyting between the gods and Loki. It is written in the ljóðaháttr metre, typical for wisdom verse. Lokasenna is believed to be a 10th-century poem.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Akka Mahadevi</span> Kannada poet (c.1130–1160)

Akka Mahadevi was one of the early poets of Kannada literature and a prominent person in the Lingayat Shaiva sect in the 12th century. Her 430 extant Vachana poems, and the two short writings called Mantrogopya and the Yogangatrividh are considered her most notable contribution to Kannada literature. She composed fewer poems than other saints of the movement. The term Akka is an honorific given to her by great Lingayat saints such as Basavanna, Siddharama and Allamaprabhu and an indication of her high place in the spiritual discussions held at the "Anubhava Mantapa". She is seen as an inspirational woman in Kannada literature and in the history of Karnataka. She considered the god Shiva as her husband,.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Lamb (poem)</span> 1789 poem by English poet William Blake

"The Lamb" is a poem by William Blake, published in Songs of Innocence in 1789.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hymn to Intellectual Beauty</span>

"Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" is a poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816 and published in 1817.

<i>Songs of Innocence and of Experience</i> Book by William Blake

Songs of Innocence and of Experience is a collection of illustrated poems by William Blake. It appeared in two phases: a few first copies were printed and illuminated by Blake himself in 1789; five years later, he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume titled Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. Blake was also a painter before the creation of Songs of Innocence and Experience and had painted such subjects as Oberon, Titania, and Puck dancing with fairies.

<i>The Book of Thel</i>

The Book of Thel is a poem by William Blake, dated 1789 and probably composed in the period 1788 to 1790. It is illustrated by his own plates, and compared to his later prophetic books is relatively short and easier to understand. The metre is a fourteen-syllable line. It was preceded by Tiriel, which Blake left in manuscript. A few lines from Tiriel were incorporated into The Book of Thel. Most of the poem is in unrhymed verse.

The Brahmajāla Sutta is the first of 34 sutta in the Dīgha Nikāya, the first of the five nikāya, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka, which is one of the "three baskets" that compose the Pali Tipitaka of (Theravada) Buddhism. The name means Net of Brahmā. The sutta is also called Atthajala, Dhammajala,, Ditthijala, Anuttarasangama Vijaya.

Tirzah is a biblical name, one of the daughters of Zelophehad, and subsequently the name of a biblical city.

<i>Tiriel</i> (poem) Illustrated poem by William Blake

Tiriel is a narrative poem by William Blake, written c.1789. Considered the first of his prophetic books, it is also the first poem in which Blake used free septenaries, which he would go on to use in much of his later verse. Tiriel was unpublished during Blake's lifetime and remained so until 1874, when it appeared in William Michael Rossetti's Poetical Works of William Blake. Although Blake did not engrave the poem, he did make twelve sepia drawings to accompany the rough and unfinished manuscript, although three of them are considered lost as they have not been traced since 1863.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Four Worlds</span> Kabbalistic philosophical framework

The Four Worlds, sometimes counted with a prior stage to make Five Worlds, are the comprehensive categories of spiritual realms in Kabbalah in the descending chain of Existence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prometheus (Goethe)</span> Poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Prometheus" is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in which the character of the mythic Prometheus addresses God in misotheist accusation and defiance. The poem was written between 1772 and 1774 and first published in 1789 after an anonymous and unauthorised publication in 1785 by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi. It is an important work of the Sturm und Drang movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Mental Traveller</span>

The Mental Traveller is a poem by William Blake. It is part of a collection of unpublished works called The Pickering Manuscript and was written in a manner that suggests the poem was to be read directly from the collection.

<i>There is No Natural Religion</i> Series of philosophical aphorisms by William Blake

There is No Natural Religion is a series of philosophical aphorisms by William Blake, written in 1788. Following on from his initial experiments with relief etching in the non-textual The Approach of Doom (1787), All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion represent Blake's first successful attempt to combine image and text via relief etching, and are thus the earliest of his illuminated manuscripts. As such, they serve as a significant milestone in Blake's career; as Peter Ackroyd points out, "his newly invented form now changed the nature of his expression. It had enlarged his range; with relief etching, the words inscribed like those of God upon the tables of law, Blake could acquire a new role."

<i>Atzmus</i> Divine essence in Kabbalah

Atzmus/atzmut is the descriptive term referred to in Kabbalah, and explored in Hasidic thought, for the divine essence.

According to Sarira Traya, the Doctrine of the Three bodies in Hinduism, the human being is composed of three shariras or "bodies" emanating from Brahman by avidya, "ignorance" or "nescience". They are often equated with the five koshas (sheaths), which cover the atman. The Three Bodies Doctrine is an essential doctrine in Indian philosophy and religion, especially Yoga, Advaita Vedanta, Tantra and Shaivism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Voice of the Ancient Bard</span>

The Voice of the Ancient Bard is a poem written by the English poet William Blake. It was published as part of his collection Songs of Innocence in 1789, but later moved to Songs of Experience, the second part of the larger collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 1794.

"Night" is a poem in the illuminated 1789 collection Songs of Innocence by William Blake, later incorporated into the larger compilation Songs of Innocence and of Experience. "Night" speaks about the coming of evil when darkness arrives, as angels protect and keep the sheep from the impending dangers.

"The Collar" is a poem by Welsh poet George Herbert published in 1633, and is a part of a collection of poems within Herbert's book The Temple. The poem depicts a man who is experiencing a loss of faith and feelings of anger over the commitment he has made to God. He feels that his efforts in committing himself to his faith have been fruitless, and begins to manifest a life for himself without religious parameters. He denounces his commitments and proclaims himself "free". The poem's themes include the struggle with one's beliefs and the desire for autonomy in defiance of religious restriction. The speaker is trying to create his own limits, to lead himself, rather than following God. He tries to convince himself that a life of freedom will bring him the satisfaction that his faith has failed to provide.