“The Tyger” by William Blake

William Blake lived in what is known as the Romantic 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.

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, but I believe this poem conveys the sublime experience of nature,the importance of imagination and genius, and exoticism.

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. The setting alone is very exotic, and Blake was very imaginative to create such a detailed scene. 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 echoes 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? I believe this sentence is at the very heart of the sublime concept during this period, and Blake clearly expressed the theme in this poem.

Works Cited

Altizer, Thomas J. J. “The Revolutionary Vision Of William Blake.”Journal Of Religious Ethics 37.1 (2009): 33-38. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.

Damrosch, David, Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Susan J. Wolfson, and Peter J. Manning. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 5th ed. Vol. 2A. Boston: Longman, 2012. Print.


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