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"The Tyger"
The English poet, painter and printmaker William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was not recognized during his lifetime. He is now considered to be one of the best poets of the Romantic Age. Blake’s work led an art critic to call him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. He lived almost his whole life in London – and he produced a diverse and symbolically rich collection of poetry, which embraced the imagination as “the Tyger” or “the Lamb”. The poem consists of six stanzas with 4 lines each. The lines rhyme is AABB. The poem has a regular and rhythmic meter. This regular rhythm is suggestive of the smithy that is the poem’s central image. In the start of the poem the speaker asks a fearsome tiger what kind of divine being could have created it: “What immortal hand or eye/ could frame they fearful symmetry?” Each stanza contains further questions, all of which refines this first one. From what part of the cosmos could the tiger’s fiery eyes have come, and who would have dared to handle that fire? What sort of physical presence, and what kind of dark craftsmanship, would have been required to “twist the sinews” of the tiger’s heart? The speaker wonders how, someone could have created this creature. How its creator would have had the courage to continue the job. Blake is comparing the creator to a blacksmith, he thinks about the anvil and the furnace that the project would have required and the smith who could have used them. And when the job was done, the speaker wonders, how would the creator have felt? “Did he smile his work to see?” Could the creator possibly be the same being who made the lamb? In the first stanza Blake is asking a question which will be the theme of the poem, and each subsequent stanza elaborates on this conception. Blake believes in the idea that nature, like a work of art, must in some way contain a reflection of its creator. That is both the beautiful and horrific thing about the tiger. The tiger is strikingly beautiful yet also horrific in its capacity for violence. And if God created all living things, then Gods most also must have a violent side. What kind of a God could or would design such a terrifying beast as the tiger? Blake is in more general terms’ asking questing about - what does the existence of evil and violent creators in the world tell us about the nature of our God? What does it mean to live in a world where a being can at once contain both beauty and horror? The tiger is first appearing as a strikingly sensuous image. But as the poem continues the tiger takes on a symbolic character, and comes to embody the problems the poem explores: the tiger is both perfectly beautiful and yet perfectly destructive – Blake is investigating the presence of evil in the world, and in this investigation the tiger becomes the symbolic center. The tiger’s remarkable nature exists both in physical and moral terms, and the speaker’s questions about its origin must also include both physical and moral dimensions. All the questions of the poem are centered on the question - what sort of creator has created is creator? “Fearful symmetry” assumedly only a very strong and powerful being could be capable of such a creation. Blake is using the smithy as an image for the industrial world. He is creating a contrast between the natural world and the industrialism of the London of his day. The creator is still God, but the means of creation is different. The tiger is so dangerous that it is created by mechanical tools rather than by natural causes. Technology may be a benefit to mankind in many ways, but within it still holds deadly potential. The smithy represents a new side of God. The new side has a more laborious and deliberate way of making; because the physical presence of the tiger creates the idea that the tiger isn’t accidentally produced. The speaker stands in awe in front of the tiger – the human is a sheer physical achievement in comparison to the...
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