Dr. Elizabeth Davies-Stofka
LIT 115 C11
6 April 2014
The Tyger by William Blake, is a poem filled with inquiries. The speaker seeks out the Tyger in the night to further his curiosities. Although the Tyger never responds, by questioning him, the speaker obtains enlightenment. The speaker is ultimately asking who made such a creature and why. How he approaches these questions is somewhat open to interpretation, and can change the outlook of this poem.
When I first read this poem aloud, I attempted a voice in anguish. I chose this first, because there is a sense of torment in this piece. As I read in this voice, I found myself talking more towards the creator than the Tyger. These deep, probing questions are directed at the Tyger as more of a veil; a safe way to question such a mighty being, as I imagine the creator to be. As I continued to read in this voice, with that intention, I found myself and the speaker reaching our utmost courage when he dared to question the “he” instead of the Tyger. “Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
Another formulation I chose was from a perspective of fear. This is a given, because the Tyger is described as such a powerful and dangerous creature throughout the poem. Reading in this voice, the first stanza seemed almost like a submission and plea to the Tyger. His name is acknowledged twice, before even daring to question further. Approaching the poem this way gives the entire piece a sense of respect. I became very cautious and afraid of both the Tyger and creator, yet, their presence demanded regard as well. I began to see the dialogue as more of a homage to both Tyger and creator, giving them due honor by carefully probing to learn more about their power.
Remember by Joy Harjo, has an essence derived directly from its title. The poem is spoken by a female, who is very wise and tuned in with the earth. A sense of gratitude is expressed, as well as recognition in regards to remembrance. This poem relied heavily upon repetition to cement its ideas, so that I was truly inclined to reflect and remember.
I couldn’t help but read this poem in a motherly way the first time. A female presence is implied due to the gender of the author. I found myself reciting this poem as an older woman, perhaps a grandmother. I was telling my grandchildren the tales of life next to a campfire, as we lay under the night sky. This connection fit so perfectly, as the family is mentioned specifically in the text. Imagining it being read under the night sky, right in the heart of nature, made the words come alive. As I read this way, I found myself as the grandmother not only teaching the children, but also reminding myself of all these things. It’s as if the speaker wanted to remind herself as well.
One time I read it as if I were an long forgotten spirit; the ancestor of my people. It seemed like bit of a reach at first, but as I continued I found it brought new light to the text. It gave me an omniscient perspective, and as each line touched on a different aspect, I was immediately there. I was able to witness first hand the origins of all things, and this brought a literal sense to the word “Remember”. I was transported to the specific locations mentioned in the poem as I spoke them, such as “The corner of Fourth and Central” and “Iowa City”. I also experienced the natural phenomena of the universe, moon, and stars. Reading it this way made me feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation of the beauty of life and nature.
Although these poems were very different in many ways, I found through this exercise that they both carried a message of respect. I don’t believe that was the main them of both poems, but it was definitely a common idea that they both presented. Both of these poems urge readers to respect our creator, or that of which we come from. Our origins are important, and that source deserves attention and honor.
William Blake was not only a famed English poet, he was also a masterful painter and print maker. Though he is now recognized as a notable artistic figure in the Romantic Period, he was largely unrecognized in his lifetime. Blake was born and raised in London in the mid seventeen hundreds, and spent most of his life in that city. He started out as an engraver, illustrator and a drawing teacher. Blake described his painting technique as “fresco.” It is a form using oil and tempera paints mixed with chalks. Blake would then paint the design onto a flat surface, usually a copperplate or piece of millboard, from which he pulled the prints simply by pressing a sheet of paper against the damp paint. He finished the designs in ink and watercolor, making each, rare, impression unique.
Blake lived in what is known as theRomantic Period. It was a revolt that was directed against an 18th Century society known as Classicism. Romanticism spawned from classicism because it embraced everything classicism omitted – passion, self-expression, spontaneity, inspiration, unrestrained energy, imagination, violence and irregularity, unfamiliarity, and elemental. Romanticism emphasized passion rather than reason. William explored these bounds throughout his poetry and artwork, regardless of the thoughts of others. He was socially persecuted for his beliefs, but today he is highly acclaimed for his opinions.
Later on in his life, William dabbled in poetry and released a first, crude edition called Poetic Sketches. Eventually he crafted his finer works, known a Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. They greatly reflected his mind that was heavily preoccupied with the war at hand, The French Revolution. As he witnessed first-hand the downfall of his beloved London during a battle with France, these poem collections render his disgust with his contemporary society.
He has been said to have prophetic poetry, as much of his works touch on biblical and mystical matters. Although many of his present-day critics found him to be insane, later critics hold his work to a much higher standard. He had many revolutionary religious ideas for the time, as he held the Bible
reverent, but carried hostile feelings for the Church of England. Blake was also known to have a preoccupation with good and evil. All of this flowed throughout his paintings and poetry, and The Tyger is a perfect example. To fully understand The Tyger, one must read The Lamb as well. Both poems reference each other, and bring about a powerful representation of Blake’s religious ideas.
Blake published nearly all of his own work, and his poems were always tied in with his art. He often etched poems onto copper plates and designed around the words with artwork and decorative images. He also painted images and scenes to go with his poems, and The Tyger has a unique image of the beast to accompany it. A father of the romantic age, William held firm to the belief that reality could only be understood through imagination.
Although known as insane to his contemporary counterparts, modern critics have come to recognize him as an important and influential artistic figure in history. Rejecting the common beliefs of his contemporaries,William greatly opposed dualism, a Western, Neoclassical idea that claims everything is made up of warring opposites. He became obsessed with the fine line between good and evil, striving to communicate that there was no clear, or black and white, distinction between the two. His book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell reasons that a happy existence requires equal amounts of good and evil. These views are also clearly reflected in his poetry, as his poem The Tyger analyzes the evil or dark side of life, while his poem The Lamb symbolizes the good. He was also a strong advocate for equal rights among all genders and races, and looked down upon slavery.
Blake had great concern for children as well. He wanted children to be unrestrained, free to be as God meant them to be: vehicles of imagination. He found that their play and laughter muted the worries of the world. William began to symbolize children with imagination, stating that the products of man’s imagination were to be beloved, cherished and enjoyed as precious children. He put great effort into producing images and poems which would please children and encourage them to continue to see the world through their eyes not with their eyes, as reflections of the heaven from which they
Although having Christian beliefs, Blake strongly opposed The Church of England. He disagreed with them in regards to several topics. He argued that natural desires need not be repressed. The church thought that natural desires were evil, but Blake thought they were good and that there should be adverse actions, because it is necessary for humans to move from innocence to experience. He also alluded to the idea that The Holy Bible was poetic in form, and the best ever written. People of that time did not like the unfamiliar in regards to religious and scientific beliefs, and as Blake’s claims were somewhat hard to wrap one’s mind around, people frowned upon his ideas.
Joy Harjo was born in 1951 in Oklahoma. Her Muskogee Creek heritage underlies much of her poetry, and her feminist and social concerns arise as well. Harjo graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in poetry in 1976. She then received her M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa in 1978. Harjo taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Arizona State University, and the University of Colorado, before becoming part of the English department at University of New Mexico in 1990. With much experience in many aspects of art, Harjo weaves Native American myths, symbols, and beliefs into her writing. Her poetry accentuates local nature and landscapes, and echos a need for remembrance and transcendence. In 1995, Harjo received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. In 2002, Harjo received the PEN Open Book Award for A Map to the Next World: Poetry and Tales.
A critically acclaimed poet in her modern lifetime, Joy is also a notable writer, teacher and saxophonist. She plays with a professional group known as Poetic Justice. She is considered to play an important part in what is now considered the Native American Renaissance, a term coined by critic Kenneth Lincoln. It is a term used to define Native Americans’ reclamation of heritage through literary expression. It includes discovery and reevaluation of early texts by Native American authors and renewed interest in customary tribal artistic expression.
Harjo is a leading figure in contemporary American poetry. Even though her poetry often reflects her homeland of the Southwest and indicates Creek values, her work has universal relevance due to depth and thematic concerns in her writings. For Native American cultures, storytelling has served as entertainment, as well as to answer questions from curious children about the origins of natural sights and phenomena. Joy’s poetry carries storytelling and lecture reminiscent themes in most of her work.
Joy strongly supports her ancestry, as well as her rights as a woman. In an interview with Helen Jaskoski she stated,
“I believe those so-called ‘womanly’ traits are traits of the warrior. Vulnerability is one, you know. The word, warrior, it applies to women just as well. I don’t see it as exclusive to a male society. Male and female traits are within each human, anyway. I’ve known some of the greatest warriors in my life. They’ve stood up in the face of danger, in the face of hopelessness. They’ve been brave–not in the national headlines, but they’ve been true to themselves, and who they are, and to their families. Their act of bravery could have been to feed their children, to more than survive.”
A common theme in her poetry and writing is the fact that she does not tell her readers how to feel, but instead tells the truth as she sees it. This allows her poetry to become relevant to a larger audience, although some critics claim she is too passive. Harjo’s poetry is also not about being “politically correct”, but instead about continuation and survival. While Native American cultures generally value the powers of memory, Harjo’s poems bring to non-Native American readers an awareness and understanding of the strength of memory. A harmonious balance is attained by the combination of the past and present, and of the mythic and mundane.
Remember is inclusive of all of Harjo’s best qualities. The poem has a flowing, lyrical feel, perhaps reminiscent of her musical inclinations. The piece also seeks to emphasize a common sentiment of hers, that nature is not a part of our lives, but rather, that our lives are a part of nature.
As I read The Tyger by William Blake, I could immediately envision his gleaming, orange eyes-”burning bright,” a metonymy for the eyes of the Tyger- reflecting the moonlight. I pictured a luscious jungle, or forest, alive with the creatures of the night. I then saw a heavenly being “what immortal hand…could frame”. The distant deeps or skies I saw as a unknown and mysterious place, untouched by mankind. The “wings”, again, made me think of a heavenly being. Lines 8-12 all created an image in my mind of the Tyger being this ferocious and feared, yet beautiful creature.
The author raises the question as to what kind of being is capable, and willing, to create such a creature as the Tyger. The hammer and anvil refer to blacksmithing, and I instantly imagined a blacksmith working hard over a fire to create a masterpiece. I envisioned comets and shooting stars contrasting the dark, night sky “stars threw down their spears”, and then a huge rainstorm “water’d heaven…tears”. I pictured the creator smiling down at the Tyger, with its eyes still reflecting the stars and moon in the sky. The reference of the lamb is an innocent an fragile creature. The poem questions if the being who made the gentle and innocent lamb, also made the aggressive and dangerous Tyger. “Dare frame the fearful symmetry” makes me imagine someone even more powerful, beautiful and feared to be capable of creating the Tyger.
The first line of Remember created an image of the Oregon night sky for me, the “sky that (I was) born under”. The star’s stories caused me to think of the things the stars have seen; the history and people that have passed before my time. The moon is portrayed as a woman. Perhaps so common a “woman” that we can find in any place, say, even a bar in Iowa City. The “sun’s birth at dawn” made me think of the beginning of the world. Although not naming a specific deity, it alludes to a “creation” by using words like “birth”. The poem gives me a vivid image birth when it speaks of the mother, and it speaks of grandmothers and other ancestors. The poem completes the strong family picture by adding the father figure. I imagine all the beautiful races of the world “remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, etc…”, and I pondered their origins. I then saw the possible origins of “plants, trees, animals” and their past lives. I got an image of the earth as whole, in a more pure, wholesome, and original state. I liked the metaphor of all those things being “alive poems”. I again got to picture another natural phenomenon as a “woman”, in regards to the wind. Another specific co-ordinance is listed here “the corner of Fourth and Central”, perhaps alluding to the idea that we an find these women, our ancestors or origins of our roots, at actual places significant to us. Or maybe it is meant to imply that we can find them anywhere. “You are all people…all people are you” seems to be a metaphor stating that we all come from the same roots; that we as humans have a common ground and heritage. It then extends to universe, seemingly claiming that we are apart of something even bigger than ourselves. I get an image that things are constantly progressing and changing (all is in motion). “Language comes from this” could mean a lot of things, but I see it as not just speaking, but everything humans use to express themselves; such as writing, painting, talking, singing, drawing, dancing, poetry, etc. We are encouraged to remember all these things and how they are life. We are given the metaphor at the end of life being a “dance”.
I found both of these poems to be rich in metaphors, metonymys, and images that greatly support and bring life to them. “On what wings dare he aspire?”Wings symbolize that (he) the T yger’s creator was so enlightened and inspired it was as if he was soaring on wings. He took a risk and was so creative and thoughtful, as well as risky, to dare form such a creature. The wings are a beautiful and powerful metaphor.
As I read The Tyger, I heard primitive drums and low voices in the background; nothing else. This poem seems to flow more precisely as a chant, as opposed to a typical song. I envision it as starting out quieter, and then building, slowly reaching a crescendo at the end. Each stanza ends in a
rhyme, making great use of assonance-identical vowel sounds; “bright” and “night, “art” and “heart”. It falls into place perfectly as a chant when I read it, because the lines are nearly identical in length and they seem to have similar stress patterns. I also pick up on a trochaic pattern, which is greater stress followed by a lesser stress. For example, I read it as “TY-ger, BUR-ning, FOR-ests, etc. The stanzas are also equal in length and incorporate similar rhyming patterns. I felt this poem was made up of harsher, more intense sounds, making a good use of cacophony.
Since the poem has a dark tone as well, violins would greatly ad to the melancholy and eerie feel the words give off.”Twist the sinews of thy heart”, for example, is such a rich phrase. Sinews is another word for tendon or connective tissues. The diction and class in this poem give it an elegant feel that fits perfectly with its rigid structure and rhyming stanzas. It also makes wonderful use of alliteration, which gives the poem a sing-song rhythm. “burning bright”, “what wings”, and “dare its deadly” are all example of Blake’s use of alliteration to create the specific flow of phrasing.
I feel The Tyger stood out from all the other poems in the sets because it was so precise in its construction. William Blake did magnificent job of making the form of his poem tight and constricted, while still allowing it to read fluently and be left open to interpretation.
Remember was opposite The Tyger in many ways. With this poem, I hear melodious nature sounds like water rushing and birds chirping. This poems brings me back to mankind’s’ roots, and reminds me of how musical and beautiful nature is. Perhaps, because I know the author is Native American, I can’t help but feel as though this poem is done its best justice being sung or read with a flute accompanying it. I hear not just a flute, but eventually the addition of tribal drums and cries or chants. This poem is more free and flowing. It doesn’t seem to strictly follow any rhyme patterns. There is much repetition though, as the word “Remember” is read 15 times. Other words such as earth, are also repeated for emphasis; “red earth”, “black earth”, etc.
This poem had a very pleasing tone to it, and I felt the poet used euphony. She also used Caesura, as this poem had dramatic pauses that created variety and natural rhythms. Contrary to the The Tyger and the other poems in the sets, Remember is a free bodied spirit that seems to dance around the page, ending perfectly in no particular place for each line. Form is used here, and the are hints of rhyme and assonance. However, Harjo uses these tools as more of a garnish on her free form work. I believe this poem used repetition more effectively than all the other poems, and that use made her important and timeless words more memorable.
The Tyger is told by the speaker as he observes the Tyger. The speaker appears to be a very curious individual. He displays abstract thinking by asking deep questions. He brings things about in a new light, and dares to ask things that others have never even pondered. I get the feeling that the speaker is the daring type too, as he not only ask daring questions, but also ventures out in the forest to seek out the Tyger. He’s searching for something; trying to wrap his mind around the mysteries of life and its origins. This indicates the nature of the speaker’s view of creation and the clear division in his mind between the world of attractive, but fearful, power.
The “bright and “night” imagery echoes this contrast as well, alluding to the tyger’s orange and black markings. The contraries of beauty and terror are combined. The speaker’s state of mind is further suggested in the shift from the repeated ‘dread’ in stanzas three and four to ‘deadly’ in stanza four. The similarity in sound makes it an apparently simple connection. There is, however, an unjustified equation in the speaker’s movement from one to the other. What causes dread or awe is not necessarily also deadly. “Did he smile his work to see?’”, implies the speaker trying to wrap his mind around what creator could be pleased with this creature.
The poem gives off an almost dangerous tone, as the speaker seems to be somewhat at risk
throughout his questioning. I also get a sense of enlightenment. The speaker appears to be some sort of visionary, and that adds to the tone. The tone in my opinion, is much like the Tyger itself. Very dangerous and yet awe-inspiring.
Remember is told by the speaker in more of a reflective and motherly way. I want to picture her as a wise, older woman. However, the text does not seem to clearly convey the speaker’s age. It does imply that the speaker is giving advice to the less experienced listener. She is clearly very in tuned with the world and all its creations. Family is important to the speaker as well, as several members are specifically mentioned. The tone is very reflective in my mind, as the word “remember” is emphasized throughout the poem. It creates somewhat of a tranquil atmosphere, but encourages deep thought.
Certain phrases in this poem link to images that convey an intended feeling. For example, “Remember your birth” causes a reader to reflect instantly upon their own birth, and be grateful for the struggles their mother went through. On the other hand, “they are alive poems”, gives the entire piece a mystic feel, as though every phrase has an underlying meaning.
In regards to this analysis for persona and tone, I have to say that I identify most with The Tyger. I feel as though I am often searching, questioning, and seeking more. I also love the feelings associated when danger and awe combine.
The Tyger is a series of intricate questions, skillfully placed illicit thoughts of creation, as well as good and evil. Its deep, dark tones gives way to the evil lurking beneath. As is this poem is clearly structured and organized, it has a resounding and regular power that resonates throughout each stanza. As we see through the eyes of the speaker, we get to witness first hand as he dares to approach both Tyger and creator.
It begins with a respectful, honorable approach as the speaker bravely addresses this powerful creature. “Burning bright” provides us a specific visual as we can see the creature, and its eyes, gleaming in the darkness of its natural habitat. The “forests of the night” also allude to a proverbial, and possible spiritual forest, as Blake has a fascination with the contrast of good and evil. Blake and the speaker both question what being could create the frighting Tyger, and do it so flawlessly.
The second stanza speaks of a distant, heavenly place. This, combined with William’s self-appointed religious background, confirms the search to find the creator. The “burnt the fire” hints at some sort of hell-like place, a direct contrast from the heavenly comment. The fact that this creator would “dare to aspire” on “wings” to make the Tyger shows that the speaker thinks he supreme being. A vivid image is shown here of a magnificent hand grasping fire to make the Tyger. The next part is a descriptive interrogation of how the high being might have constructed the animal. It creates a feel of the Tyger being crafted, almost like a blacksmith working steel. The speaker has reached the crux of his questioning here as everything begins to boil down. Simply put, he wants to know why this creature was created, how he was created, and for what purpose? The speaker is wrought with uncertainty, unable to grasp how anything good could create something so dark.
The second to last stanza brings in a reference to the beginning of time. Though it can be interpreted several ways, due to Blake’s beliefs, the imagery of the “stars throwing down spears” and “watering heaven with their tears” suggests the biblical creation and fall of the angels. The question of good vs evil was always evident in Blake’s work, and The Tyger is no different. He references another one of his poems here, The Lamb, which is spent analyzing the good and wholesome aspects of the creature. William found it important to compare the two, and bring equal attention to both, to make a point. He believed that in order for life to be balanced and fall into place correctly, we need both good and evil. With this poem, he is exploring the origins of both aspects, and the creator behind such a
diverse world. The last part of the poem echos the beginning. This repetition is important, and it signifies his most essential question:What immortal dare to balance the world with good and evil, and who can handle such a power?
Remember has the essence of a bedtime story. With motherly like undertones, and sense tingling images, Joy Harjo brings us back to our origins, and causes us to think twice about our future. The repetition begins right away, and puts the reader in a studious and reflective mood, eager to hear the wise words that lay ahead. Birth is mentioned shortly after, and this is important because birth symbolizes beginning of the life cycle; something that is held highly in the Native American culture. The “star’s stories” is possibly relating to the many stories of our ancestors, both living and passed. It’s encouraging us as readers to absorb all of the knowledge we can from those around us, and to pass on our own stories to our children. This is also an important part of the author’s culture; the verbal passing on of histories and stories. There are some actual references throughout the poem that direct us to specific places. I believe these relate directly to Harjo’s own life and memories. However, the idea is that we can find ourselves in average and unseeingly important places.
Harjo spends quite a bit of time speaking of specific family members. We are encouraged to remember and respect those whom have worked so hard to create us; not just our mothers, but their mothers, and their mothers’ mothers. Family is important and something we are told not to take for granted. There’s an implication here too, to that of “Mother Nature” and her “struggle” to create us, or more widely put, the world. A father is mentioned, but only as a minor character, so it conveys a strong feminine presence for the poem. No further reasoning is given, but it’s safe to assume that at the very least, Joy wanted to focus on the feminine aspects of life such as the “moon” and “sun”, which are both female in Native American folklore.
The earth receives special mentioning as well, showing the respect that the earth is due for
sustaining us all. Particular colors are referenced here, covering the various skin tones and races of the world. A key point is made here explaining that regardless of our color, we are all of the same earth and origins. As Joy is equal rights and feminist supporter, this is a clear claim to the fact that all people are created of the same essence, and therefore equal. Soon after this, we are also told to remember “the plants, animals, trees, etc.”, as they all have their own stories and histories too. All living things share this earth, and we are encouraged to live in harmony as we coexist. We are given a beautiful image as we are told all of earth’s creation is an “alive poem”.
Harjo embodies another natural phenomenon, the wind as woman, here. We are told that the “wind” carries the secrets of the universe, creating a correlation to her idea that nature holds the answers to the origin of life. A symbiont lifestyle is an underlying theme in this poem, and the intended persuasion is that we must remember the fact that we are all one. What one person does affects another, and ultimately, no form of life should be mistreated. Everything is in constant motion, and everyone plays a part in life. Language is something we are told to remember, but not in the literal sense. Instead, it implies all forms of artistic expression and communication. Our music, poems, cooking, books, sewing, dance, hobbies, jobs, languages, and talents all have origins; and a common one at that. All of these things are a “dance”. Life is a dance, a rise and fall of tempos, filled with happy and sour notes. But all these things conspire to create a beautiful symphony.
Both of these poems are filled uniquely in their writing style and meaning in regards to each other. While The Tyger is more uniformed and strict in style, Remember is free and flowing. The former has equally lengthed lines and stanzes filled with ryhmes, and the later has no clear pattern or ryhme form. They are both rich in imagery, however, and seek to answer one of life’s most important questions: Who or what created us and why? Both poems allude to the idea of being created. And the opinion that we are created, not accidental, implores us to value our own lives, as well as those around
us. We are here for some purpose, and we need to remember others and our origins as we look to our future. Though centuries and oceans apart, William Blake and Joy Harjo have shown us through The Tyger and Remember, that all life is important and everything has a place, purpose, and reason.
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