The Tyger by William Blake
“The Tyger” is a poem by William Blake that was first published in 1794 as part of the Songs of Experience collection. Alfred Kazin, a literary critic, describes it as “the most famous of his poems,” and The Cambridge Companion to William Blake describes it as “the most anthologized poem in English.” It is one of the most frequently reinterpreted and arranged works by Blake. “The Tiger,” formerly titled “The Tyger,” is a lyric poem about God and his creations. Modern anthologies frequently include “The Tiger” alongside an earlier Blake poem, “The Lamb,” which was published in 1789 in Songs of Innocence.
Blake published The Songs of Experience in 1794 as a sequel to his 1789 Songs of Innocence. The two books were combined under the title Songs of Innocence and Experience, Demonstrating the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul, with 54 plates by author and printer W. Blake. In some copies, the illustrations have been rearranged, and a number of poems have been transferred from Songs of Innocence to Songs of Experience. Blake continued to print the work for the remainder of his years. Only 28 copies of the original collection were known to have been published during his lifetime, with an additional 16 being published posthumously. Only five of the poems from Songs of Experience were published separately prior to 1839.
The Tyger by William Blake is taken from The Songs of Experience. The poem was published in 1794. It is about the essence of creation, much like Blake’s earlier poem, “The Lamb,” from the Songs of Innocence. However, this poem reflects on the darker aspect of life as its benefits are less apparent than simple joys. Blake’s simple vocabulary and formal structure undermine the depth of his ideas. This poem is meant to be viewed in relation and contrast to “The Lamb,” demonstrating the “two opposing states of the human soul” with respect to surrounding creation.
It has been often said that Blake claimed that in order to attain a higher level of consciousness, a human must move through an innocent state of being, like that of the lamb, and also imbibe the contrasting conditions of experience, such as those of the tiger. In any case, Blake’s idea of creative power in the world that makes a harmony between innocence and experience is at the core of this poem
Line – Wise Summary
Lines 1 – 2:
William Blake’s tiger is a wild, passionate character. It is a monster, a beast, that lives in the shadows and dark hours of life. Some also found this tiger to reflect the dark shadow of the human soul just as Carl Jung would characterize it more than a century later. It is the beastly aspect of ourselves that we would prefer to keep in our night-time fantasies even if it were to be somewhere. In Blake’s poetry night always seems to indicate such kind of dream time. Under this beast’s influence, the forests may reflect the wild landscape of our imagination.
Lines 3 – 4:
In the context of the first two lines in Blake’s poem, The Lamb, these two lines should be familiar. They also rhyme with each other. Since they appear in the companion text to Experience, we may draw the inference that this poem is intended to be interpreted in conjunction with and in contrast to that earlier force. We are told to consider not the tiger’s biological parentage but rather the tiger’s Spiritual Parentage. By doing so, we will begin to equate a lamb’s existence with a tiger and continue to grasp Blake’s theory of creation. The fact that is maybe the same everlasting hand developed both the domesticated and tamed nature of the lamb and the tiger’s wild characteristic is frightening in a way. There’s a balance there, but maybe not the sort of balance we’d want for ourselves given the option.
Lines 5 – 6:
Contrary to the innocent lamb’s pastoral setting, the tiger is born from the depths of consciousness, and from our highest flights of imagination. Again Blake uses the fire metaphor to explain the tiger’s way of seeing and being seen. This is not the unpretentious vision of the lamb. The tiger has grounds and fury for believing in its own power. The tiger can be described as being close to our psychological view of ego. It is the part of us who believe in their own strength, in their own vision.
Lines 7 – 8:
It may be argued that Blake claims here that the Fallen Angel Lucifer is the creator of the tiger or the beastly part of our own existence. Prometheus was another fallen God. He was cursed to have his liver taken out by a prey creature, and to have it grow back again every day throughout eternity because it gave mankind the power of fire. In religious philosophy, Lucifer ultimately fulfils God’s purpose of producing evil and darkness, so that humans can see what is good and bad more obviously through contrast and compare.
Since The Tyger seems to be intended to be seen in contrast with The Lamb, one may begin to speculate Blake’s purposes for our analysis of the poem. Fire implies a hellish beginning, but it is daring that makes this whole world possible. The world may have been imagined by God but decided to create it. This is every artist’s challenge. What is bravery if not courage?
Lines 9 – 10:
These lines refer to the power of the tiger, and of its creator. Shoulders and art both bear obligations and burden. Sinews are the very tendons that make the heart function and are therefore regarded as a source of power and energy. Blake seems to imply that this mighty creature’s creator is amazing in his own right. We get the very picture of imagination here, too, as it happens. We are seeing the shoulders at work. We see the creativity cycle mixing the elements which make up a tiger together. We see material core turning into form. The heart not only reflects the tiger’s biochemical power but probably its love for life.
Lines 11 – 12:
Now, the tiger, the creation itself, has a life of its own. No longer under the artist’s influence, Blake wonders what the artist would have thought in making it. Note that Blake, or his protagonist, talks explicitly to the tiger, much as the lamb speaker does. In the concise words, we understand the narrator’s response to speaking explicitly to the tiger, and in these lines, the central idea is “dread.” There appears to be an implied unspoken query here, specifically, “Why?” Perhaps there is an effort to reconcile the wild beast with a sense of balance about the world and its workings. Could God have created a dreadful thing, and if so does this job make the hands of God dreadful?
Lines 13 – 14:
The language in these two sentences is, once again, more infernal than divine. Hammers, shackles, and furnaces sound more like the laboratory of an industrial manufacturer than an artist workshop. Condemnation of the Industrial Revolution is one of the themes in Songs of Experience. These lines may indicate that industry’s encroachment on the pastoral landscape of Blake’s childhood was the tangible hell the poet was referring to. Again we have to go back to the picture of a fiery tiger whose very thoughts started in a furnace. Creation here comes not so much from divine inspiration as from divine perspiration.
Lines 15 – 16:
An anvil is a tool of art as well as of industry. God or Satan or the artist clasps and seizes with zeal and courage. What makes your bravery and passion so frightening and deadly? The essence of imagination is also Blake’s favourite theme. Through these lines, he is faced with his darkest thoughts about what making entails. However, he also implies the tiger was not to have been made.
Lines 17 – 18:
These lines reinforce the notion of lost and fallen angels. When defeated and doomed to death, Lucifer’s minions were believed to have produced the milky way with their tears. Their fight was about rendering angels in God’s eyes superior to humans, but God refused. The distinction between humans and the angels, it is said, is that human beings have been created with the potential to change. Lucifer, as the Devil will make us forget that possibility. What does this myth have to do with the tiger? Perhaps, Blake is playing with the idea of perception. It is how we perceive the tiger that makes him terrifying or passionate. Remember, if we continue with the JudeoChristianIslamic canon, God created Lucifer and his followers, as well as the lambs. This is a fairly awesome concept. Something beautiful comes out of even the fallen angel’s descent—the stars themselves.
Lines 19 – 20
Eventually, Blake answers the fateful question and gets down to work. Has the same God who made the tiger made the lamb too? This makes the idea of God all the more amazing if it is true. It means God knows what we humans do not. It implies that God has the potential for tenderness and fear and that there is no more joy in either. It also refers to the artists ‘ personal opinions. Often artists make art that is distasteful to the public, but does that mean they shouldn’t smile at their own work and know that it can be best appreciated with time? It must have been something Blake dealt with himself during his lifetime because the world did not accept his work until much later on in his career.
Lines 21- 22:
Blake uses repetition to reinforce his ideas and to ask us to take another look at the meaning. If the tiger is not only burning, but it is burning brightly, then isn’t it a creature of light? If it is a creature of light, walking through the darkness, then doesn’t it serve to illuminate the shadows within ourselves, and out in the world? Finally, if this tiger, with its inner strength and prowess, serves as a guiding light through the darkness then doesn’t our fear of it becomes rather shortsighted?
Blake uses repetition to clarify his theories and challenge others to look at the meaning another way. If not only the tiger burns, but it burns brilliantly, then is it not a creature of light? If it is a creature of light, passing in the dark, does it not illuminate the shadows inside and out of the world? Ultimately, if this tiger, with its inner strength and prowess, acts as a leading light in the darkness then does not our fear of it become very short-sighted?
Once again, it is highly recommended that Blake’s poetry student strive to display his illustrations in accordance with the reading of his poems. There are several different tiger depictions, and in some, it seems to be a fearsome beast, but in other paintings, it seems that the tiger is something like a guiding light. Blake appears to have loved building the same ambiguity he found in the works of God.
There is an invincible immortal who created both the docile lamb and the raging tiger. To consider the organism, we are told to consider the maker. In contemplation, we do need to look at the artist’s imagination in this world’s microcosm. It is important that Blake uses the word “dare” in the last paragraph, rather than “might,” as it highlights once again the idea of courage in relation to life. Finally, once again we must equate and contrast the beast with the tamed one, and we must find the correct equilibrium of nature formed by the Divine eye.
Important Questions Answers
Q. How do the first two lines (called a couplet) contrast?
Ans. The first line of this poem mentions the dark “forest of the night,” while the second line speaks of the “burning” brightness of the tiger’s colouring. Blake is contrasting images of lightness and darkness to reinforce the tiger’s uniqueness and majesty.
Q. How does the speaker present the Tyger, as compared to the lamb in Blake’s other poem?
Ans. The Tyger is more complex and more ferocious than the lamb. It lacks the innocence of the lamb, and serves as a hunter rather than hunted. Lastly, the Tyger is fiery coloured, while the lamb is pure white.
Q. Explain the implications of the two words ‘immortal’ and ‘fearful’ about the image of the tiger.
Ans. The poet expresses wonder at the awful beauty of the creature and asks what “immortal hand or eye” could have framed it. Note the two words “immortal” and “fearful”. They signify the fact that the tiger is a symbol of both terror and divinity.
Q. What does the Tyger by William Blake mean?
Ans. The Tyger is drawn from The Songs of Experience written by William Blake. The’ Tyger’ is a symbolic tiger symbolic of the evil force of the human soul. It is created in the fire of imagination by God, who has a supreme imagination, spirituality and ideas.
Q. What does the Tyger symbolize?
Ans. The ‘tiger’ in William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” is a symbol of evil. The terms used to characterize the tiger include “burning” (line 1) and “fire” (6), both of these mean hell fires. Blake also uses “fearful” (4), “dread” (12,15), and “deadly terrors” (16) to characterize feeling with which the tiger is associated.
Q. What kind of poem is The Tyger by William Blake?
Ans. “The Tyger” is a short poem of very standard shape and meter, in the style of a child’s rhyme definitely not in substance and implication. It is written in six quatrains each made up of two rhyming couplets with a pulsing, steady, mostly-trochaic rhythm.
Q. The fourth stanza compares the creator of the Tyger to what/whom?
Ans. The speaker uses metaphor to compare the Tyger’s creator to a blacksmith.
Q. Unlike in his “The Lamb,” Blake’s “The Tyger” offers no answers for the speaker’s questions. What does the lack of responses suggest is the poem’s message about creation?
Answers may vary. Example: The unanswered questions suggest that the speaker is in awe of the creator. It may also suggest that the speaker would rather have the reader contemplate the difficult questions he asked. The rhetorical questions leave readers questioning their own creation and deliberating the answers for themselves.
Q. What is the main theme in the Tyger?
Ans. The main theme of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” is creation and origin. The speaker is in awe because of the tiger’s fearsome quality and sheer elegance, and rhetorically he wonders if the same maker could also have created “the Lamb” (a reference to another of Blake’s poems).
Q. What does burning bright mean in the Tyger?
Ans. Burning Bright “may describe the Tyger’s appearance (tigers have fiery orange fur), or it may describe a kind of strength or force that this Tyger holds at a deeper level. Thus, The burning bright means being so fierce, being so capable, so intelligent, and owning the power to do anything. “what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?” The usage of the immortal hand or eye refers to God.
Q. What question does the Speaker of the Tyger ask over and over?
Ans. The question that the speaker of “The Tyger” asks over and over again is “What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?” The question is there to say that the tiger is so majestic, almost ideal, but still very threatening and scary.
Q. Why is the Tyger in Songs of Experience?
Ans. Blake meant the Songs of Innocence or Experience to display the two contradictory states of the human soul.’ The Tyger’ and ‘The Lamb’ are the two contrary poems in the Songs of Innocence. The Lamb is about a benevolent God who ‘calls himself a Lamb’ and is himself meek and mild.
Q. What is the meaning of fearful symmetry?
Ans. Fearful Symmetry is a phrase from a poem entitled “The Tyger” written in 1794 by British author and graphic artist William Blake. Symmetry refers to a sense of proportion and balance which is harmonious and beautiful. In the poem, fearful symmetry can mean something that is terrifying but beautiful.
Q. What is the significance of the one word changed in the last stanza?
Ans. The only word that varies between the first and last stanzas is “could,” the word that begins the first stanza’s final line. The word “could” transforms into “dare” in the last stanza. The poem starts by wondering who would construct something as frightening as a tiger.
Q. What does What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry mean?
Ans. Blake tops off his first quatrain with a provocative question, “what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?” Blake’s usage of the immortal hand or eye in the line refers to God. So he is expressing what God could create or “frame” is something that is both perfect, symmetrical, and yet scary and threatening.
Q. Which line from the poem The Tyger is an example of alliteration?
Ans. The best example of alliteration in the poem The Tyger is probably the line “Tyger Tyger, burning bright,” which is repeated in the poem to begin the first and last stanzas.
Q. Where in the poem does the speaker wonder of the tiger may have been created by God?
Ans. Right in the middle, the speaker asks whether God made the tiger. There are several images which tell us that the tiger may be a demonic creation.
Q. What is the tone of the Tyger?
Ans. The tone of the poem “The Tyger” by William Blake is going from awe to terror, to irreverent allegation, to resigned curiosity.
In the first eleven lines of the poems, the readers can feel the reverence that the speaker feels for the tiger as a piece of art.
Q. Who is speaking in the Tyger?
Ans. The poem deals with open-ended questions that force the reader to think the answers. Unfortunately, the questions are unanswerable for the reader. Therefore, considering that Blake wants the reader to imagine creating the “Tyger,” one might possibly presume Blake is the speaker himself.
Short Answer Questions