Tyger by William Blake- A Review

Author: Aila, Learner, Age 15 years

This is a self determined independent project that aims to review the poem Tyger by William Blake

The Tyger by William Blake would surely count amongst Blake’s most profound and intense poems. The poem is marvelous because it can be interpreted in several ways, each of which appears to be correct, but not complete. One cannot fully comprehend it’s true symbolism because of the various strata of meaning hidden in the lines.

For children the poem can be as simple as a eulogy of a tiger, celebrating its beauty and strength. For others, it may be in praise of God and for some, in praise of the Devil. The brilliance of the poem is its ambiguity. It gives each reader a different understanding and journey with the poem.

To analyse the poem, one must bear in mind that William Blake was a mystic and it is highly unlikely for a man such as him to write a poem merely praising the beauty of a tiger. The poem begins with the lines ‘Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night’

To my mind the tiger, is referring to the Devil himself. These lines represent the ruler of the night and darkness. The words ‘burning bright’ refer to the color red. Interestingly, the colors, red and black are commonly used to depict the Devil. The following two lines refer to God. The first stanza of the poem tells the reader a story. It introduces the Devil and rhetorically tells the reader that the Devil was created by God. The usage of the word ‘fearful’  to describe the Tiger, gives further evidence that Blake is speaking about Satan.

The tone of the poem differs in the second stanza of the poem. Here, Blake appears to be questioning the pre-conceived notion of the Devil’s characteristics. This is evident due to the line ‘In what distant deeps or skies’. Deeps represents hades and skies stands for the heavens. The important word to notice is ‘or’. Blake is questioning if Satan belongs to hell or heaven, or in other words he is inquiring whether Satan is evil or virtuous. The next two lines bring about a feeling of awe and fascination at how God could create such a being but did not ‘dare’ to destroy it even though this being was in contrast to God.

The third stanza begins with the admiration of God’s strenuous work and power which could mould pure, raw energy into the Devil. The lines depict twisting tremendous energy with divine strength and fantastic art to form the heart of the Devil.The last two lines, mention the growth of Lucifer into Satan. ‘What dread hand? and what dread feet?’ intends to explain Lucifer beginning to fantastically change and to become completely different from God. Blake seems to be in wonderment at the development of Satan and God’s strength and capacity in this stanza.

In the fourth stanza, the words that are connected to Blacksmiths must be taken into notice due to their Biblical significance. In many Biblical texts blacksmiths are used as metaphors for God. In this context, blacksmiths are used to also bring about the effect of strenuous labour that God did in order to create Lucifer. The phrases ‘dread grasp’ and ‘dare its deadly terror clasp’ provide information of God’s extraordinary and tremendous power.

The fourth stanza refers to the creation of the world. It represents, the Devil and his followers falling to earth which brought the angels to tears and caused them to ‘water’ the heavens. In the third line, Blake asks two rhetorical questions, which indeed give the answers themselves. Blake attempted to say that God was untroubled with the events. The Lamb is a depiction of Jesus in a biblical context and signifies gentleness. The Tiger represents ferocity. Blake tells the reader that both were made by God. This stanza is the pinnacle of the poem. It is here that the poet finally concludes that there is no good or evil, but only two different quantities without which there is no harmony. One can come to this conclusion because, Blake has written a book called ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ in which he verbalises that there is no God or Devil but just two different kinds of energies, which complete each other. Blake’s wife was illiterate which again shows his belief in the bond of two different qualities.

The final paragraph is a repetition of the first paragraph with the exception of the word ‘dare’ in place of the word ‘could’. This change was made to intensify Blake’s awe and wonder.

The poem is composed of 6 stanzas and 6 is also a number that symbolizes the Devil. This could have been thought to be a coincidence but given that Blake was a mystic and that he makes biblical references in all of his other writings, this symbol should not be disregarded.

The poem has a quatrain couplet and a trochaic rhythm. This means that each stanza consists of 4 lines and follows rhythm patterns such that  the first 2 lines rhyme with each other and the last 2 lines rhyme with one another while there is an unstressed beat followed by a stressed one.

‘Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright

In the forests of the night

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry

 

‘Ty’ is stressed and ‘ger’ is unstressed in the word ‘tyger’. ‘Burn’ is stressed and ‘ing’ is unstressed  in burning and ‘Bri’ is stressed and ‘ight’ is unstressed in ‘bright’. The quatrain couplet is evident because this stanza clearly has 4 lines and ‘bright’ rhymes with ‘night’ whereas ‘eye’ rhymes with ‘symmetry’

The poem is written in a rhetorical style which evokes the reader and brings about a mood of astonishment and wonder thus grasping the reader’s attention.

Therefore, The Tyger, to my mind is  one of William Blake’s greatest works because of it’s tremendous  depth and powerful compact, direct and evocative style. Every word is a metaphor and every line represents something far greater than what it seems, which is why The Tyger deserves every bit of applause that it receives.