‘The Tyger’ by William Blake The Society August 19, 2012 Poetry 1 Comment Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies. Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain, In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp, Dare its deadly terrors clasp! When the stars threw down their spears And water’d heaven with their tears: Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? Analysis of the Poem This poem contemplates a question arising from the idea of creation by an intelligent creator. The question is this: If there is a loving, compassionate God or gods who created human beings and whose great powers exceed the comprehension of human beings, as many major religions hold, then why would such a powerful being allow evil into the world? Evil here is represented by a tiger that might, should you be strolling in the Indian or African wild in the 1700s, have leapt out and killed you. What would have created such a dangerous and evil creature? How could it possibly be the same divine blacksmith who created a cute, harmless, fluffy lamb or who created Jesus, also known as the “Lamb of God” (which the devoutly Christian Blake was probably also referring to here). To put it another way, why would such a divine blacksmith create beautiful, innocent children and then also allow such children to be slaughtered. The battery of questions brings this mystery to life with lavish intensity. Does Blake offer an answer to this question of evil from a good God? It would seem not on the surface. But this wouldn’t be a great poem if it were really that open-ended. The answer comes in the way that Blake explains the question. Blake’s language peels away the mundane world and offers a look at the super-reality that poets are privy to. We fly about in “forests of the night” through “distant deeps or skies,” looking for where the fire in the tiger’s eye was taken from by the Creator. This is the reality of expanded time, space, and perception that Blake so clearly elucidates elsewhere with the lines “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour” (“Auguries of Innocence”). This indirectly tells us that the reality we ordinarily know and perceive is really insufficient, shallow, and deceptive. Where we perceive the injustice of the wild tiger, something else entirely may be transpiring. What we ordinarily take for truth may really be far from it: a thought that is scary, yet also sublime or beautiful—like the beautiful and fearsome tiger. Thus, this poem is great because it concisely and compellingly presents a question that still plagues humanity today, as well as a key clue to the answer. William Blake was an English poet of the early Romantic period. He was also a skilled engraver and artist. Although against organized religion, he was passionately Christian and frequently had visions, which, combined with the spiritual nature of his poetry and art, led to his often being thought of as a lunatic. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related One Response Caleb Used Wire August 9, 2018 That was back when SCP was just getting started. My, but it has come a long way. This entry was from almost six years ago. Keep up the good work. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.