The Poem The Tyger By William Blake English Literature Essay

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Introduction

The poem 'The Tyger' belongs to 'Songs of Experience' which was written by the romantic poet William Blake. It was published in London in 1794. The Tyger is the most reflective poem on the way Blake viewed the world. It is full of imagery that captured the emotions of the time period. This paper will commence by giving a small summary and it will move on to analyze the poem with regard to style, tone, irony, diction, word order, images, figures of speech, symbols, allegory, sounds, patterns of rhyme and poetic form and finally conclude by giving a critique in the form of a personal response.

Summary

William Blake's "The Tyger" is an interesting moral critique of Protestant Christianity, or more specifically, a theological query into the motivations of creation itself. Blake's "The Tyger" builds upon the religious Christian theme of its poetic predecessor and goes on to ask questions concerning what Blake believed to be the existence of evil, the hatred of creation, and the Judeo-Christian God's apparent desire to punish that which he creates. "The Tyger" brings light many problems that would be the philosophical and theological cornerstone of his Romantic artistry.

Analysis

William Blake (1757 - 1827) was born in London, England. He displayed a lot of creativity at a very young age.  Unfortunately, he didn't have enough funding to get institutionalized education beyond a drawing school. Therefore, he went took an apprenticeship at the age of fourteen under a London engraver as engraving was a necessary industry in the 18th century, as much of the book printing and illustration at the time was in high demand. (D. Wu) Blake's lifelong profession as an engraver played a crucial role in how his poetry was published; indeed the two most significant aspects that lead to his most famous works, such as "The Tyger", were his theological views of the Protestant Church and the preferred medium for his poetry: engraving.  He read passionately and was a classic example of uninstitutionalized self-tutelage, but perhaps his greatest strength as a Romantic poet was his unique and original interpretation of the King James Bible and his undeniable talent in art. (Friedlander R.)

"The Tyger" by William Blake is a popular example of his artistic unions between theologically critical Romantic poetry and the prints that he used as a medium for expressing them. William Blake shows us his fear when he sees this terrible tiger in the night and he exaggerates the description of the animal by saying, "Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright, In the forests of the night…" The poem contains six quatrains; and its rhyme is assonant, and follows perfectly the pattern aabb due to, in the case of the first and the sixth stanzas, the word 'symmetry' is pronounced in such a way that it rhymes with 'eye'. Because of the simple structure and vocabulary, the reader is able understand the main topics and concepts, which are Evil and Good. These two essential ideas are symbolised in the 'Tyger'. (Friedlander R.)

The word 'immortal' gives the reader a hint that the poet refers to God. Then, the author wonders in what outlying places the tyger was made, meaning that these places cannot be reached by any human. Once the tiger's heart began to beat yet again the poet asks, who could make such a frightening and evil animal. William Blake asks questions about the tools used by God. And he names the hammer, the chain, the furnace, and anvil. All these elements are used by an ironsmith. Therefore, according to the poet, God is a kind of craftsman. We can also find a semantic field related to Nature like, for example, 'forests', 'skies', 'Tyger', and 'Lamb'. Nevertheless, the poet used a semantic field related to the creation of the 'Tyger'. Following that, In the fifth stanza, the poet asks two significant questions. The first one refers to God's feelings, "Did he smile his work to see?" Which means, was God happy with his creation? And in the second question he asks, "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"

The setting of "The Tiger" or the worlds this poem seems to conjure up are extremely diverse. In general, though it takes place in the abstract, without much more than "Forests of the night," and "distant deeps or skies," to give the reader any sense of location. The body parts referenced in this poem are hands, eyes, shoulders, and feet, which are examples of synecdoche. Therefore, the phrase "immortal hand" refers the whole being or person that the hand belongs to, while at the same time focusing on the hands as the means of creation. The eye represents the whole body and person, but also focuses our attention on the faculty of sight. (The Tyger)

"The Tiger" presents a question that embodies the central theme: Who created the tiger? Was it the kind and loving God who made the lamb? Or was it Satan? Blake presents his question by saying, "What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" Blake realizes that God made all the creatures on earth. However, to express his bewilderment that the God who created the gentle lamb also created the terrifying tiger, he includes Satan as a possible creator while raising his rhetorical questions.

Deeps appears to refer to hell and skies to heaven. In either case, there would be fire, the fire of hell or the fire of the stars. Of course, there can be no contradicting that the tiger symbolizes evil, or the personification of evil, and that the lamb represents goodness, or Christ. Blake's inquiry is a variation on an old philosophical and theological question: Why does evil exist in a universe created and ruled by a kind God?  Blake provides no answer. His mission is to reflect reality in arresting images. A poet's first purpose, after all, is to present the world and its denizens in language that stimulates the aesthetic sense; he is not to exhort or moralize. Nevertheless, the poem does stir the reader to deep thought. Here is the tiger, fierce and brutal in its quest for sustenance; there is the lamb, meek and gentle in its quest for survival. Is it possible that the same God who made the lamb also made the tiger? Or was the tiger the devil's work?

The poem is more about the creator of the tiger than it is about the tiger intself. In contemplating the terrible ferocity and awesome symmetry of the tiger, the speaker is at a loss to explain how the same God who made the lamb could make the tiger. Hence, this theme: humans are incapable of fully understanding the mind of God and the mystery of his handiwork. 

The fire serves multiple purposes as an extended metaphor. First, it's associated with the Tyger, which contributes to its ferocity and sublimity (the fact it's big, powerful, and mysterious). Fire is also a source of energy, and since the Tyger seems to be filled with fire, then he must also be filled with energy. In another sense, the fire of the smith's furnace is the fire of creation, the means by which the Tyger was formed. The whole poem is addressed to the Tyger. Can the Tyger talk? No. Does it even exist in a concrete sense? Probably not. The apostrophe helps the poet keep the subject alive and in-your-face, rather than talking about a bunch of generalities.

William Blake wonders why and how god is responsible for good and innocence is at the same time, the one who inserts violence and evil in this world. However, the poet does not make any statement. He only asks questions which encourages the reader to think about the answers to all his questions. Finally, the last stanza is the same as the first one. This indicates that author is not able to understand the world where we live.

Critic

In my opinion, I think that the tiger is man, God's shining creature, burning bright compared to his other creations. He describes some of man's characteristics given by God. He says that a man is fierce, bold and ambitious, somewhat evoking an image of science and man's desire for power over the earth and yet he is cultured and civilized, even introspective. These features are hard to understand in its complexity. But then, these traits of man turned into something else.

Man, like hardworking little ants to God began to use the mind he had been given to change the earth. He turned his tools to darker purposes, becoming industrial and materialistic. They forgot about the beauty of nature, the freedom of the tiger he once was. Blake wonders if nature teared at this loss and if God smiled when he saw how the beauty and power of the creature he had created had turned astray. Did the creator of the innocent lamb really also make the men on earth in their sterile society of cheap pleasure and convenience? Now Blake wonders, not only who could define man, but who would dare?

Conclusion 

In the poem "The Tyger" William Blake is stating that God should readily punish the creatures he brings into existence. God created the Lamb, but he also created the Tyger, and is so directly responsible for the misery of that same lamb, the Tyger that would prey upon it.  God created Satan, and in doing so also readily damned him to Hell for acts that, in his power, God was very much in control of and could have prevented. 

William Blake's "The Tyger" is such a fascinating theological critique, because it has forging in the depths of hell a monster to be unleashed upon mankind, not the Devil, but the Protestant God himself, the creator of the Tyger as well as the Lamb.

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