William Blake’s Tyger: Critique and Appraisal

“The Tyger” represents an intense, visionary style with which William Blake confronts a timeless question through the creation of a still-life reverie. To examine “The Tyger’s” world, a reader must inspect Blake’s word choice, images, allusions, rhyme scheme, meter, and theme. “The Tyger” seems like a simple poem, yet this simple poem contains all the complexities of the human mystery. The first impression that William Blake gives is that he sees a terrible tiger in the night, and, as a result of his state of panic, the poet exaggerates the description of the animal when he writes:
‘Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night…’

The opening question enacts what will be the single dramatic gesture of the poem, and each subsequent stanza elaborates on this conception. Blake is building on the conventional idea that nature, like a work of art, must in some way contain a reflection of its creator. The tiger is strikingly beautiful yet also horrific in its capacity for violence. What kind of a God, then, could or would design such a terrifying beast as the tiger? In more general terms, what does the undeniable existence of evil and violence in the world tell us about the nature of God, and what does it mean to live in a world where a being can at once contain both beauty and horror? Immediately after seeing the ‘Tyger’ in the forests, the poet asks it what deity could have created it:
‘What immortal hand and eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’
The word ‘immortal’ gives the reader a clue that the poet refers to God. Then, in the second stanza, the author wonders in what far-away places the tiger was made, maybe, referring that these places cannot be reached by any mortal. In the third stanza, the poet asks again, once the tiger’s heart began to beat, who could make such a frightening and evil animal. Next, in the forth stanza, 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. The tiger initially appears as a strikingly sensuous image. However, as the poem progresses, it takes on a symbolic character, and comes to embody the spiritual and moral problem the poem explores: perfectly beautiful and yet perfectly destructive, Blake’s tiger becomes the symbolic center for an investigation into the presence of evil in the world. Since the tiger’s remarkable nature exists both in physical and moral terms, the speaker’s questions about its origin must also encompass both physical and moral dimensions. The poem’s series of questions repeatedly ask what sort of physical creative capacity the “fearful symmetry” of the tiger bespeaks; assumedly only a very strong and powerful being could be capable of such a creation.
“What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?”
The smithy represents a traditional image of artistic creation; here Blake applies it to the divine creation of the natural world. The “forging” of the tiger suggests a very physical, laborious, and deliberate kind of making; it emphasizes the awesome physical presence of the tiger and precludes the idea that such a creation could have been in any way accidentally or haphazardly produced. It also continues from the first description of the tiger the imagery of fire with its simultaneous connotations of creation, purification, and destruction. The speaker stands in awe of the tiger as a sheer physical and aesthetic achievement, even as he recoils in horror from the moral implications of such a creation; for the poem addresses not only the question of who could make such a creature as the tiger, but who would perform this act. This is a question of creative responsibility and of will, and the poet carefully includes this moral question with the consideration of physical power. Note, in the third stanza, the parallelism of “shoulder” and “art,” as well as the fact that it is not just the body but also the “heart” of the tiger that is being forged. The repeated use of word the “dare” to replace the “could” of the first stanza introduces a dimension of aspiration and willfulness into the sheer might of the creative act.
“Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
The reference to the lamb in the penultimate stanza reminds the reader that a tiger and a lamb have been created by the same God, and raises questions about the implications of this. It also invites a contrast between the perspectives of “experience” and “innocence” represented here and in the poem “The Lamb.” “The Tyger” consists entirely of unanswered questions, and the poet leaves us to awe at the complexity of creation, the sheer magnitude of God’s power, and the inscrutability of divine will. The perspective of experience in this poem involves a sophisticated acknowledgment of what is unexplainable in the universe, presenting evil as the prime example of something that cannot be denied, but will not withstand facile explanation, either. The open awe of “The Tyger” contrasts with the easy confidence, in “The Lamb,” of a child’s innocent faith in a benevolent universe. The meekness of Blake’s lamb makes his “fearful” and “deadly” tiger appear all the more horrific, but to conclude that one is decidedly good and the other evil would be incorrect. The innocent portrayal of childhood in “The Lamb,” though attractive, lacks imagination. The tiger, conversely, is repeatedly associated with fire or brightness, providing a sharp contrast against the dark forests from which it emerges — “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright / In the forests of the night.” While such brightness might symbolize violence, it can also imply insight, energy, and vitality. The tiger’s domain is one of unrestrained self-assertion. Far from evil, Blake’s poem celebrates the tiger and the sublime excessiveness he represents. “Jesus was all virtue,” wrote Blake “and acted from impulse, not from rules.”
William Blake never answers his question about the unknown nature of god. He leaves it up to the reader to decide. By beginning and ending his poem with the same quatrain he asks the question about god creating evil as well as good, again. In conclusion, a reading of “The Tyger” offers different thematic possibilities. The poem seems to change as the reader changes, but the beauty of the words and meter make this poem an astonishing, enjoyable excursion into the humanity of theology. Moreover, the poem is quotable in various situations, and it leaves a permanent impression on the reader. Therefore, “The Tyger” by William Blake emerges from creation’s cold, clear stream as a perpetual inspiration – a classic. In my opinion, William Blake wrote the poem with a simple structure and a perfect rhyme to help the reader see the images he wanted to transmit. Above all, the description of the tiger is glaringly graphic due to essentially the contrast between fire and night.

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