THE TYGER & THE LAMB [Full Text & Notes}

  • Posted on: 19 May 2016
  • By: AdminMaster

by William Blake

The Tyger

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, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & 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 water'd 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?

The Lamb

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

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“The Tyger” and “The Lamb” (Blake)
1. “The Lamb” is one of the poems in Blake’s Songs of Innocence. Who is speaking to whom in the poem? How does the identity of the speaker determine the diction (choice and arrangement of words), the style and the tone of the poem? To what extent is the poem an illustration of the Bible’s assurance that we must become as little children to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven?
The speaker of the poem ‘The Lamb” seems to be an innocent little child speaking to and questioning a lamb, wondering who has created it. We can almost hear the child in the poem by the simplistic diction, sentence structures, and the curious tone in which the work is written. Yet, the curious little child has come across a double meaning in his line of questioning: the lamb refers both to the animal as well as it does to Jesus. The question is of how Jesus became a little child in his death, dying for men’s sins and being reborn in innocence so he could enter the kingdom of heaven. It seems that the poem is definitely an illustration of how we must become little children to enter the kingdom of heaven as the traditional image of Jesus highlights the Christian values of innocence and peace. The child in the poem states that the creator is called a lamb because he is meek and mild, but beyond being a lamb, he also became a little child (innocent).

2. How is the voice that speaker in “The Tyger” different from the voice in “The Lamb”? Why do you think the questions in “The Lamb” receive answers while those in “The Tyger” go unanswered? What do the unanswered questions imply about the “immortal hand” that created the tiger? The creation of the tiger is pictures in an extended metaphor in stanzas 3 and 4. Is the metaphor appropriate? Effective? Explain your answer by discussing the specific words used to depict the special kind of creation Blake refers to.

While the voice in ‘The Lamb” is innocent, sweet and curious, the voice of the speaker in ‘The Tyger” is full of darkness, fire, curiosity, admiration, and passion. It is a distinct possibility that the questions in “The Lamb” go answered because the speaker in the poem can see how a gentle God created such a gentle, harmless, innocent and cute creature like the lamb. This is a creature that would never hurt a soul. Yet, the speaker in “The tyger” struggles to see how a loving God could make such a beautiful, yet terrifying creature which commits acts of such violence. Perhaps he simply does not understand how such a creature could be created, nor does he know why God would create it, so he cannot answer his own questions. Or perhaps he leaves it to the reader to ponder God’s will and the intricacy behind the reasons for which different creatures are created. The unanswered questions about the “immortal hand” which created the tiger show that it is artistic, strong, perfect, and most of all, daring. It also raises a question about God’s nature: why would he create such a thing that has such capacity to do violence? Why has he created a world that is so beautiful, yet so full of horror as well?
The metaphors used to describe the tiger are certainly appropriate and extremely effective. They show the tiger being forged in some sort of medieval forge. The reader can almost imagine the molten steel being poured by a smithy creating the perfect weapon. The lines “What shoulder, and what art./Could twist the sinews of thy heart?” (Blake 9-10) show just how steady the creator’s shoulder would have to have been and the strength it would take be to make such an amazing, yet terrifying creature. It is definitely appropriate for a tiger to be thought of as such; they are certainly amazing creatures. The line “In what furnace was thy brain?” (Blake 14) is great to imagine a tiger being made in a smith’s furnace, burning ever so hot and staying that way once created. This is very effective imagery and it alludes perhaps to the fires of hell, as if the dangerous elements of our world have not been created by the same force that created the lambs or the positive, sweet and loving elements.

3. Although Blake’s lamb and tiger can be thought of as real animals, their function as symbols should be emphasized. The lamb is used as a symbol of the innocence of childhood, the tiger mainly as a symbol of the fearful power of worldly experience. Point out lines in both poems in which the lamb and the tiger are pictures as animals and as symbols.
The lamb pictured as a symbol of innocence as well as an animal:
“Gave thee such a tender voice” (Blake 7)
“He is called by thy name,/ For he calls himself a Lamb.” (Blake 13-14)
“I a child, and thou a lamb.” (Blake 17)

The tiger pictured as a symbol as well as an animal:
“What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” (Blake 3-4)
“Burnt the fire of thine eyes?” (Blake 6)
“And what shoulder, & what art. Could twist the sinews of thy heart?” (Blake 9-10)
“In what furnace was thy brain” (Blake 14)
“Tyger Tyger, burning bright,” (Blake 1)