“The Tyger” by William Blake – Analysis and Poem

Synopsis

“The Tyger” looks at what could create such a creature like the tiger. The poem takes a look at the different parts of the tiger’s body and the thing (God?) who created the subject.

Analysis

  • 1st Stanza: Asks the question who could create the tiger’s symmetry
  • 2nd Stanza: Who created the tiger? Where is he from?
  • 3rd Stanza: Who could create the way you look and the insides of your body?
  • 4th Stanza: Who created you and what did he use?
  • 5th Stanza: A reference to the creation story from Job 38:7 and asking if God created both the “Lamb” and the “Tyger”.
  • 6th Stanza: Who created the tyger?

Theme: God, Creation

Tone: Curious and playful but possibly scared depending on the interpretation.

Structure: Six stanzas with four lines each written in trochaic-tetrameters and catalexis lines (final syllable left off)

Rhyme scheme: AABB (rhyming couplets) with only near rhymes on the last line of the first and last stanza

Alliterations:

  • “burning bright”
  • “distant deeps”
  • “what wings”
  • “began to beat”
  • “dare its deadly”

Figurative Language & Meaning

  • Tyger – The devil? Evil? Or maybe just a tiger
  • “In the forests of the night” – Unknown challenges
  • “fearful symmetry” – Good and evil together (yin-yang), or maybe just the tiger’s stripes
  • “When the stars threw down their spears, / And watered heaven with their tears” – Angels were so happy that they threw down their spears and cried.
  • Lamb – Jesus Christ as well as something completely innocent and peaceful
  • Interpretation

    There are many ways to interpret this poem. Blake was not a terribly religious person although he was quite spiritual. He was actually quite the rebel for his time. He didn’t believe in the fundamental Christian aspects that others followed. He saw himself as someone who doesn’t have an exact religion but still Christian in name.

    This poem then takes a good look at religion, questioning it, analyzing it. How could someone create such a creature like the tiger but also create the lamb? They are opposites. One is ferocious and scary while the other is calm and peaceful. How could someone create it? How could God? Or was it someone else?

    We must also take a look at the rhythm of the poem. It is childlike, like a nursery rhyme. Why? Well, during this point in time there was a lot of child exploitation going on. Blake was against it. This poem may very well be asking how can God let something as innocent as a lamb into this world but at the same time let the tigers exist and exploit the world? There is a lot to ask and not many answers.

    Poem: “The Tyger” by William Blake

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder, and what art,
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand? and what dread feet?

    What the hammer? what the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? what dread grasp
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry.

    Reader’s Reaction

    “The Tyger” is a great poem for many reasons. First, I like the rhythm. Yeah, it’s like a nursery rhyme, but I’m just a child at heart. Second, the poem allows for many interpretations. Many times poetry is exact and boring once you understand it completely. “The Tyger” has you thinking you understand it until you read it again and think about it more and come up with a completely different interpretation.

    Gary R. Hess

    Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia.

    Leave a Reply