Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In any analysis of “The Mental Traveller,” the narrator is one of the main puzzles. He tells the reader next to nothing about himself, yet the poem cannot be fully understood unless the speaker’s perspective is somehow identified. There is a clue to his viewpoint, however, in the first two lines, in which the mental traveler says he has traveled through “a Land of Men/ A Land of Men & Women too.” These lines are not redundant: The narrator suggests by the clarification in the second line that he is from a world in which the sexes are not separated, an androgynous realm that in Blake’s myth is called Eternity. Thus he sees this land of men and women from the perspective of an eternal and presents it, not as some “cold Earth wanderer” might, but in his own visionary terms. According to Blake’s myth, in Eternity or Eden the male and female principles are combined: There is none of the discord described in “The Mental Traveller” because men and women are united in a harmonious whole. From the point of view of the mental traveler, then, the idea of separate men and women is very troubling—it can only lead to conflict and suffering.

If the mental traveler is an eternal, the land he describes is Earth, shaped in the poem by the narrator’s eternal perspective. In Blake’s myth, this land would most likely be identified as generation, or the state of experience, a vision of life that is described in his Songs of Innocence and of...

(The entire section is 504 words.)