William Blake included “The Tyger” in his poetry anthology “Songs of Experience”, whereas “The Lamb” was placed in the anthology “Songs of Innocence”. Compare and contrast these poems, and consider why each was positioned in its particular anthology.
Born into eighteenth century Victorian England, William Blake was subject to an unstable upbringing into a rapidly changing society. His parents did not accept the traditional teachings and practises of the Church of England; consequently, Blake obtained an obscure view of religion. He led an antisocial childhood, sitting alone reading the Bible, and even claimed to have had visions of angels. In keeping with the rebellious nature of his family, Blake refused to attend school. His disturbed youth is clearly apparent in his poetry; especially apparent in his works “The Tyger” and “The Lamb”. In his poetry, Blake challenges the reader to question the establishment and come to their own conclusions about God, creation and life.
In ‘The Tyger’, the six verses of rhyming couplets consist of lines of varying syllables, but with at least one word of over two syllables, create a regular beat, showing the speed and excitement of the creature, creating a passionate, if not urgent tone. The tiger is shown to be powerful and awesome by the poets inclusion of the lines ‘Burnt the fire’ and ‘Twist the sinews’ and indeed likens it to something made by a blacksmith and therefore made by metal and fire. Within the first line, Blake uses both repetition and alliteration, by saying: ‘Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright’. By using the words ‘Burning bright’, he is immediately evoking an image of hell. These words also relate directly to the tiger, representing its fiery orange coat. Again, this image of darkness is intended to promote a sense of fear, mystery and malevolence.
He also employs words such as ‘fire’ and ‘furnace’ to promote the reader’s visual image of evil further. The blacksmith creator is reinforced by constant references to tools he would use, such as the ‘hammer’, ‘the chain’, the ‘furnace’ and ‘the anvil’. The blacksmith is made to seem as if he were the creator of this beast, and the word ‘immortal’ points to the fact that this symbol may be of God or the devil and mentioning heaven does not weaken this idea. Blake may possibly be satirising at this point and voicing objection at the revolution occurring in his era, and saying that they created a beast.
The volley of questions is designed to make us ponder the roots of the tiger’s existence and creation by an ‘immortal’ being, but these questions are never answered by the poet, who leaves the identity of the creator a mystery, allowing the reader to make their own conclusions about its immortal origin, heavenly of satanic. These questions reflect how Blake feels. They also appear to ask if the tiger is a manifestation of the bad side of man’s personality, or is indeed Satan in an animal form, possibly referring to the war in heaven when he says, “When the stars through down their spears” as Lucifer, Satan’s name, means Star. The creature is also never fully revealed, suggesting that the full tiger may be too much to comprehend. By asking ‘in what distant depth or skies burnt the fire of thine eyes?’ Blake appears to be asking if God could have created a ruthless killer such as the tiger, a beast that will ultimately cause harm to God’s other creatures.
In this poem, he is challenging his Victorian audience to reconsider their views. He portrays the tiger as a ferocious beast; in effect, the tiger symbolises experience. However, he views the lamb as a very innocent creature. He is unable to understand, therefore, how God could have created both the tiger and the lamb. It is this message, which he tries to impress upon the reader
‘The Lamb’ is a two verse poem, also with rhyming couplets and repetitions of lines emphasising the soft, gentle and warm tone of the lamb itself. Blake seems to be writing his poem as if he were a child, repeating phrases and using simplistic English. The poet describes the lamb by appealing to the human senses. The setting surrounding the lamb is a valley with a stream running through it through the poet saying ‘By the stream’ and ‘all the vales’.
This gives a scene of beauty, almost as if the poet is attempting to describe the Garden of Eden, a place where God himself would dwell, unlike ‘The Tyger’ and its setting of a forest at night, a setting which would have been seen in its historical context as a scene of evil. The sense of touch is appealed to by the description of the lamb as having ‘Softest clothing wooly bright’. The lamb’s voice is described as ‘tender’ unlike the harsh roar of a tiger. Soft adjectives build up an atmosphere of calm and serenity. When the tiger and the lamb are contrasted side by side, they do give a stark comparison of human nature, the meek and the vicious, showing that there is no progression without opposites.
As in ‘The Tyger’, Blake expresses his point in the first and last lines in the Lamb. However unlike ‘The Tyger’, where Blake questions God’s involvement in the creation of this creature, he affirms his belief that the lamb was created by God in ‘The Lamb’.
An obvious difference is Blake’s use of language, such as using hard sounding alliteration, using the letters B, D and T, and action words such as ‘grasp’ and ‘clasp to increase the brutality of the poem in ‘The Tyger’. In ‘The Lamb’ however, the poet uses the softer letters such as L to enforce the soft and gentle nature of the creature being described.
The use of metaphors is obvious in each poem, and can be seen to reflect God in each example. ‘The Tyger’ portrays the creator as the blacksmith, moulding the tiger from fire and metal. In ‘The Lamb’, the poet, through the eyes of the child, compares the creator of the lamb, to the lamb itself saying, “for he calls himself a lamb”. He is speaking of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who created the lamb being God. He then states that the child is linked to both, as Christ was a ‘lamb’ and a child, and the child is therefore likened to Christ, having been a child himself, and can therefore be linked to both.
The two poems, while the animals included in each are different, both reflect Blake’s upbringing, always questioning what was regarded as fact, such as attending the Church of England. He questions whether God could possibly create such a meek creature like the lamb and a vicious cold-blooded killer in the tiger. His writing style is also similar both poems, using imagery, alliteration and metaphors to enhance the emotion he was trying to convey, although the harshness of the words chosen is more prevalent in ‘The Tyger’, using hard consonants to portray the rage of this creature and is written as if it were and adult writing the poem and repeating the first verse to emphasise the point which he was trying to show: who created this beast?
The writing style in ‘The Lamb’ makes use of assonance and foregrounding to soften the tone, making it more gentle, just like the lamb, an innocent herbivore. The setting which is presumably Eden further adds to the calm, gentle feeling of the poem, when coupled with the nursery rhyme, childlike writing style of the poem, shown by the lack of question marks and repetitions of lines makes this scene to one of complete innocence. The refrain-like repetition of the final two lines shows his religious side.
Pace also plays a part, with assonance on gentle sounds slowing the pace down to that of a plodding animal. By contrast, the regular beat of ‘The Tyger’ creates the feel of a predator stalking its pray, showing its experience of hunting and killing, stalking its pray ‘in the shadows of the night’.
‘The Lamb’ is appropriately placed in ‘Songs of Innocence’, as the setting and description of the lamb make it seem to be like its coat ‘wooly bright’ and clean, the picture of innocence itself. ‘The Tyger’ also deserves its place in ‘Songs of Experience’ due to the fact that this predator is an experienced killer, hardened its experience like the adult who Blake is writing through. Also ‘The Lamb’ is written through the perspective of a child and typifies Blake’s childhood religious beliefs, and ‘The Tyger’ is the poet showing his beliefs as an adult, not taking anything in his religious views as fact, but questioning them. ‘The Lamb is also included in ‘Songs of Innocence’ because the lamb in the poem is a representation of Jesus, who was innocent use the lamb in the poem is a representation of Jesus, who was innocent yet became a sacrifice for humans.