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The poem is more about the creator of the tyger than it is about the tyger. In contemplating the terrible ferocity and awe-inspiring symmetry of the tyger, the speaker is at a loss to explain how the same God who made the meek, innocent lamb could create a horrifying creature such as the tyger. This essay will provide a detailed analysis of William Blake’s “The Tyger” paying particular attention, firstly to the extended metaphor in stanza’s 2, 3 and 4, secondly, to the poetic significance of repetition, in particular to the phrase “fearful symmetry”, thirdly, to the role that the rhythm and metre play in creating an urgent need to address the succession of the questions and lastly, the evocation of the sublime emotion of terror in Blake’s depiction of the Tyger.
Firstly, the extended metaphor in stanza’s 2, 3 and 4, is comparing the creator and his creation of the Tyger to a blacksmith and his creations. A blacksmith that makes use of tools, such as the “Hammer,” “chain,” “furnace,” and “anvil” in creating objects out of hot metal. The blacksmith represents a conventional image of artistic creation; here Blake applies it to the divine creation of the natural world. This is evident in L5:”In what distant deeps or skies”, refers to an otherworldly (“distant”) place, perhaps a kind of hell (“deeps”) or Heaven (“skies”). The “distant deeps or skies” bring to mind the concept of hell being underground and heaven being in the sky. Since the Tyger may have been created in either hell (deeps) “or” heaven (skies), it remains ambiguous as to whether the Tyger is good or bad. Blake was essentially an artist. His Tyger is therefore a painting in words. The tyger in this poem is rather a magical, mystical creature. This is an artist’s impression of the animal, almost an alien creature with glowing eyes and stripes. Blake does not depict good and evil as opposites but rather different aspects of the nature of God. Good and evil are different and do matter in the natural world, especially in the way that men react with God’s creation.
The very first words expressed by Blake suggests that this tyger has been a “forged” creation “In the forests of the night” nevertheless describes the dark, mysterious, cloaking and hiding fiery figure of the tyger. The “forging” of the tiger suggests a very physical, painstaking, and intentional kind of making; it emphasizes the remarkable physical presence of the tiger and precludes the idea that such a creation could have been in any way accidentally or haphazardly produced. The word “forge” means to create or form is a smith term as well as another name for a smith’s furnace. The smith reference also ties into all the fire imagery associated with the Tyger, and emphasizes the energy and danger in the design of the Tyger. However the third stanza depicts a parallelism of “shoulder” and “art,” that it is not just the body but also the “heart” of the tiger that is being forged. Therefore, this is not merely a physical forgery but also a psychological. Hence “In what furnace was thy brain” moreover suggests that the mind of the tyger is also shaped and twisted under this extreme heat and energy the fire in the “furnace” kindles. In the process of constructing this tyger it therefore becomes the beast that it is thus is “framed” to be; both terrifying and similarly remarkably elegant.
The tiger initially appears as a strikingly sensuous image. However, as the poem progresses, it takes on a symbolic character, and comes to represent the spiritual and moral problem the poem explores; perfectly beautiful and yet perfectly destructive. Blake’s “tyger” becomes the symbolic centre of an investigation into the presence of evil in the world. According to Mary R. and Rodney M. Baine, “Blake consistently used the tiger in the fallen world as a symbol of cruelty, destructiveness, and bestiality. Nowhere does the tiger appear as righteous indignation or Christ militant.”(Mary R. & Rodney M. Baine: 576)
Therefore what this tiger symbolizes is not the typical, blood thirsty predator who possesses purely animalistic characteristics. Unfortunately Blake’s “tyger” is a symbol of the darker side of life, the overwhelming struggle of mankind against the brute force of reality. With this struggle comes growth and maturity. The lamb and tyger, although opposites, are nevertheless each synonymous with the struggle of life, from innocence to harsh experience.
The tiger symbolizing nature red in tooth and claw, the tiger poses the question of the origin of evil and the nature of its creator. The perennial problem of believing in a benign Creator while viewing a malign universe has been the most agonising of all dilemmas. The tyger is seen the ultimate terror, just as the lamb is the final reassurance for the child of innocence that the universe and its Creator are benign. While other critics such as Paley have concentrated, especially upon their association with Orc and revolution.
Secondly, the poetic significance of repetition in the poem, particularly paying attention to the phrase “fearful symmetry” is repeated twice in the poem to emphasize the fear, anxiety and intimidation the tyger produces in the reader. These two words “fearful symmetry” placed together by Blake is a contrast in two words, an oxymoron. It conveys the Creator’s contrary potential. Similarly, other such contrasts are evidently made by Blake that includes “deeps/skies”, “Lamb” (innocence) versus “Tyger” (experience, danger). At first “fearful symmetry” is found in stanza one and later in stanza two. The word “fearful” references to the scariness of a tyger, but also alludes to the sublime. The sublime describes this creator as a very powerful, and mysterious, supernatural being that possesses divine power articulating intense and extreme emotions of apprehension onto its reader.
Throughout “the tyger” Blake emphasizes on images of fear that predominate throughout the poem. This is seen by the choice of words that the speaker uses such as “fearful”, “dare”, “dread”, “deadly terror” and “spears”. In particular the word “dare” is
Thirdly, the role that the rhythm and metre play creates an urgent need to address the succession of questions which Blake poses throughout the poem. These questions are by some critic’s rhetorical and by other critic’s seem to be left up to the reader to think about on the nature that this creator holds entirely. According to Mary R. and Rodney M. Baine
The rhythm throughout the poem is one of stressed followed by unstressed syllables, creating the effect of the blacksmith beating the “hammer” onto the “anvil” and thereby forging his creation out of steel. There are also references made to “fire” throughout the poem: “burning bright”, “burnt the fire”, “seize the fire” and “furnace”. These words again are images of a supreme “immortal” being that the speaker compares to a black smith. In romantic poetry poets often contrast aspects of nature with the inventions of mankind. More specifically Blake in “The tyger” uses the characteristics of a tyger in light of the French revolution in 1795.
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