The Lamb and the Tyger: a Closer Look at William Blake

Topics: William Blake, The Tyger, Poetry by William Blake Pages: 7 (2267 words) Published: June 2, 2013
"Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence" (Blake). Addressing the contrasts of different states of the human mind is the main concern of William Blake. As a British Romantic poet of the 18th century, William Blake addresses the contrasts of different states of the human mind in his works Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Blake, born and raised in London, demonstrated his early interest in creative expression by "engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities" (Wikipedia) at age ten. This interest led to his apprenticeship to a professional engraver at age fourteen. Although he excelled in mastering the craft of engraving, he also managed to express himself in written word. In 1789, Blake released Songs of Innocence, a collection of poems and engravings reflecting his childhood memory of divine visions and his view on the importance of innocence in human development.

The main poem from this collection, "The Lamb," epitomizes innocence and the relationship between the young and the divine. In singsong verse, a curious child questions the nature of a gentle lamb, and he learns what he already knows: God created the lamb. World events and life itself greatly affected Blake. In Songs of Experience (1794), the sequel to Songs of Innocence, he addresses his loss of "faith in the goodness mankind" (Wikipedia) caused by the fall of the French Revolution. The outstanding poem from this collection, "The Tyger," seeks the answer to the unknown: how can the god who created the peaceful lamb also be the creator of the fierce, destructive tiger? The speaker asks many questions, but receives no answer. That same year, Blake combined the two contrasting works into Songs of Innocence and Experience (Wikipedia).

Songs of Innocence, specifically "The Lamb," shows how innocence, though originally exclusive to infancy, contributes to the inherent, distinguishing traits of hope and imagination. In contrast, Songs of Experience, particularly "The Tyger," reveals how experience flows from innocence and how it aids human development as well. The extreme contrasts between innocence and experience work together to create a well-balanced individual. In Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, William Blake illustrates how conflicting states of existence play equal, vital parts in the progression of humanity.

Many critics disregard Songs of Innocence, especially "The Lamb," for its simplicity in structure and vocabulary. However, Aubrey states, "[the depth of "The Lamb"]…demands a visionary leap…to feel the uncommon (for the adult) reality that the child…lives so naturally." The poem's simplicity enables the audience (children) to understand it, but the simplicity also leads to disadvantage. The innocence conveyed in the poem does not burn eternal; it is exclusive to infancy. In addition, this innocence sometimes only endures through ignoring the ever-pervading experience (Aubrey).

Innocence gives humans hope. The naïveté of childhood does not spring from "dependency or ignorance but [from] spiritual vision" (Aubrey). "The Lamb" portrays this precisely by using the lamb as a metaphor for Christ, the Son of God. The child in the poem asks, "Little Lamb, who made thee?" Upon learning that the same one who created the lamb also created the child, a sense of unity establishes itself "between the human self, the natural world, and the divine kingdom" (Aubrey). This "oneness" can also be seen as the connection between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. By putting both the child and the creation of God on the same scale, by calling each a "lamb", the child experiences a sense of protection in being as important as Christ himself is (Aubrey). Without the "manifest spontaneity of…mystical insight," the poem's simple "theme, diction, and metre" thrust it into "unthinkable depths of feebleness" (Ward).

Innocence breeds trust, though...
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