Analysis and Discussion

Last Updated: November 12, 2009

 

William Blake, English poet, printmaker, and painter, is known now as one of the most prominent figures of the Romantic Age for his poetry and visual arts. Fairly unknown during his lifetime, Blake has now become an iconic figure. His personal beliefs are easily revealed through his poetry and are considered extremely controversial; such as his views of Christianity. Nevertheless, Blake is widely read and critiqued by modern-day scholars. One of Blake’s best known works, Songs of Innocence and Experience, features the eminent poem The Tyger.

Known for its contrast of beauty and horror in nature, The Tyger also incorporates religion and creation; questioning it. From the beginning, the tiger is questioned about his creation, “What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” This question becomes the central point of interest and is constantly referred to. For example, Blake continues to asks, “On what wings dare he aspire?/ What the hand, dare sieze the fire?/ And what shoulder, & what art/ Could twist the sinews of thy heart?” This example presented demonstrates Blake’s beliefs of creation, and distrust in religion. The serene tiger presented becomes a unique symbol representing Blake’s investigation of evil in this “pure” world.

A vital contrast is made throughout the poem between good and evil; beauty and horror. The disparity is seen in the tiger that possess both types of traits. In reference to religion, one could say that God has produced both traits in nature and humanity. One can even question the existence of both God and evil, for they supposedly negate one another. However, it is evident that Blake continuously provides the reader with information to question the establishment of a higher power, God.

Blake refers to another poem of his, The Lamb, to compare the two. Blake asks, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” This leaves the reader to wonder if it is the same God which created both. However, his intentions were to make the reader question the capability of creating such distinguishable creatures. This also brings up another contrast between the two animals created representing the two different aspects of society. The lamb, a weak, innocent, feeble, and frail creature can in no way be compared to the fierce, solid, and experienced tiger. How is it that both distinguishable creatures were created by one being? This is the question proposed by Blake, one which leads him to indirectly suggest that this being, God, does not in fact exist.

Blake exchanges a word in the last stanza to make it different from the first. In the original verse, Blake asks, “[who] Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” However, a distinctive word is changed in the final line when the stanza is repeated. The new verse reads, “[who] Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” Some may argue that Blake used this terminology in a demeaning way towards religion. In addition, ending the poem this way leaves the reader in astonishment, wondering and speculating.

The illustration in the poem features a tiger facing left; his entire body is visible. Standing in front of vines (to the left) and a tree (to the right), the tiger seems to be walking; one eye wide open.. Blake makes the connection when setting the scene in the poem in line 3, “In the forests of the night.” In addition, the vines which run also split after the first, third, and fifth stanzas symbolizing the split in society.

The Tyger encompasses several controversial aspects of humanity. Blake’s reference to another poem of his is common throughout his works, and is shown in The Tyger to support his proposition. Whether it is the existence of a God or the presence of both good and evil in nature, Blake leaves all in awe in the way he proposes his position through simple questions.