The Analysis of William Blake’s ‘The Tyger and the lamb’ Essay Sample
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- Category: poem
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The Analysis of William Blake’s ‘The Tyger and the lamb’ Essay Sample
William Blake lived 1757 to 1827 and was born and lived in London. As a young boy and throughout his later life Blake experienced many strange and unusual vivid visions, claiming to have seen Angels and ghosts. This I feel has a great relevance in his decision to write poetry about God and mystical beings.
From the age of 10 Blake wanted to be an artist and after training continued mainly engraving. Throughout his life Blake was mainly renowned for his art but later became famous for his poetry .In 1782 he married a woman called Catherine Boucher who introduced him to famous literary figures where he learnt about philosophy and started writing his famous poetry. In 1789 he wrote his first book called the ‘Book of Thel’ an illuminated edition with pictures. He also wrote and published a poetry collection called ‘Songs of Innocence’ (which is where ‘The lamb’ was written.) Then in 1794 he wrote the ‘Songs of Experience’, which was written to be the second part to his poetry collection with the ‘Songs of Innocence’ in this ‘The Tyger’ was written. And, within both poems ‘The Lamb’ and ‘The Tyger’ were coupled.
‘The Tyger’ by William Blake
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright.
The first line of the poem is very powerful, with the use of the first syllable emphasis (trochee) and the second word being repeated. On a literal level this is obviously talking about a Tyger and with the use of exclamation marks to give the impression of a statement or a warning, something to be feared and that is dangerous, it could also be someone addressing the Tyger itself, calling or maybe shouting for its attention. The next few words of the first line ‘Burning’ and ‘bright’ makes you thing on a literal level of perhaps the colour of the Tyger orange .On a slightly more philosophical level the word burning could be associated with a fire which, used in this context is relating the ambivalence between the Tyger and the fire, on one side fire when controlled is an essential asset and vital in life. But on the other, when uncontrolled can be wild, unpredictable, and dangerous and in some cases can destroy life. This is much the same as a Tyger, which is beautiful, yet can deadly.
The use of the two ‘b’s’ ‘Burning’ and ‘Bright’ as alliteration is also used to emphasize that of the power and fear of the Tyger.
In the forests of the night,
In contrast to the first line the second line is filled with darkness and on a literal level can be associated with the night, being dark and tin the deep of a jungle or forest there wouldn’t be much light and it would seem very dark. Yet, Blake uses the darkness to represent more on a philosophical level. The night, the night is often associated with danger and mysterious and terrible things happening. For example, witches and ghosts only come out at night. But also, the forest as well as being physically very dark is also a very morally dark place. Where terrible immoral things take place. An example of this is the fairytale story Hansel and Gretel who go into the forest and are captured by a witch, in other words, child abduction.
What immoral hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
These next two lines are one of the most crucial in the whole poem, firstly on a literal level, a question directed to the tiger itself asking ‘who has made you?’ .On a slightly more philosophical level ‘what immortal’ or really ‘what God or Gods’ and the use of ‘hand’ and ‘eye’ words associated with making and creating something, meaning in this context ‘What God or Gods have created you’ But the real question comes in the next line. The use of the word ‘frame’ making you think of something controlled or contained and also connected with symmetry, with perfection. Something symmetrical is associated with something well made .So through this line Blake is trying put across the idea that because the tiger is so well made it must have been created by someone or something very important like a God or Gods.
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
In the first line of the second stanza Blake uses the words ‘deeps’ and ‘skies’ this on a literal level makes you thing of the deeps as the ocean and Skies as, the sky. On a philosophical level this is a very elemental line with the uses of water and air (deeps being associated with oceans and skies) also the distant meaning that these are two extremes and comparisons.
The next line reintroduces the relevance of ‘fire’ by using the word ‘burning’ also adding another element to the stanza. On a literal level the words ‘burning’ and ‘eyes’ you could associated with cats eyes which do appear to glow. This line is also another question following the other unanswered question at the end of the first stanza.
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
In the next two lines more questions but now worded differently now asking ‘who dare to make thee?’
The use of the word ‘wings’ on a philosophical level makes you think of high up in the sky and being close to God .Then the word ‘aspire’ is used in an insinuating manner saying ,’who ever dare aspire to make something so perfect is trying to become some above themselves. In the last line of the second stanza with the use of the words ‘dare seize the fire’ Blake is relating the poem to Greek mythology and the story of Prometheus who stole the fire from the Gods.
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?
On the literal level the first line uses the word ‘shoulder’ to associate force and particularly strength along with the word ‘art’ which has an air of dexterity and delicate control this line is talking about the creator who has to be immensely strong and powerful but yet has to be very delicate and has to have immense dexterity to make something so perfect, showing that the creator must be ambivalent .So ,on a slightly deeper level Blake is drawing parallels between the Tyger and the creator
The next line reinforces the fact that we’re talking about the creator of the Tyger and on the literal level asking ‘who actually made your heart beat?’ The reinforcement of the strength of the creator comes with the use of the word ‘sinews’ and then of the dexterity in word ‘heart’.
The next two lines are saying on a literal level ‘when you were made what hand or foot dare make you? Who dare make you?’ But on the philosophical level Blake is trying to putting across the fear of the creator actually making something so powerful and perfect. Picturing the creator thinking ‘what have I created .Something so powerful, so overwhelming by its beauty, that I myself am overwhelmed by my own creation’
This ‘overwhelming responsibility’ can draw parallels with real life; Oppenheimer after seeing how destructive the atom bomb could be, was so horrified by his creation he took his own life.
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
Throughout all the lines 1 to 3 in this stanza the literal level talks about the making of the Tyger , how the creator created .Blake has used this to draw parallels with a Blacksmith using the words ‘hammer’ ,’chain’ ‘furnace’ and ‘anvil’ all of which are used by the blacksmith to create something. Blake also draws parallels in a philosophical level again with the ambivalence of the creator creating the Tyger. The ambivalences needed in the Blacksmith in creating something having to be very strong working with metals, but, having to be delicate to work the metal into different shapes.
The other key words in the verse are ‘hammer’ and ‘furnace’ because of the heat it generates when a blacksmith is creating something it starts in a furnace as its birth. As when the metal is molten it can be worked and moulded by the blacksmith. Just as the poem asks where the tygers birth was, who made him. The importance of the last line is again reinforcing the creator’s fear of its own creation with the words ‘deadly terrors clasp’. The emphasis on the whole stanza is on the fact that no human could be good enough, powerful enough to create something so perfect.
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?
This is the most important stanza in the whole poem and has the most religious references. The first two lines are based around our own Christian God referring to Angels throwing down their spears in anger on being so up-set of what God has created that they weep. If this is so, then this is the first time in the poem that Blake has used a direct link on the creator being our own Christian God. That the angels are weeping over Gods decision to create something so perfect yet so dangerous.
The next line on a philosophical level asks the question. Did God smile when he saw what he had created? Again, Blake is leaving us with an unanswered question.
The last line of this stanza asks one of the most important questions in the whole poem. ‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’ On the literal level this question is obviously asking if the creator has made the lamb as well as the tyger .The lamb of course representing the innocent pure little animal which runs around in fields. Whereas the Tyger is represent to be cunning, dark and the more knowledgeable of the two creatures. So, the question asks, ‘although these two creatures appear so very different, they are actually very alike, so are they made by the same creator?’ If you then take this to a deeper philosophical level the lamb represents the symbol of Christianity and ultimately of Jesus Christ himself.
The lamb also draws its parallel with Jesus, as it to be used as a sacrifice for Christian celebration, just as Jesus was sacrificed for the sake of mankind which is now celebrated as Easter. So Blake is alternatively saying if God can create something as pure as the Lamb, why then did he create something with the same beauty. But yet could be so dangerous like the Tyger, making something which is given choice and knowledge of which to do both good and evil, making the Tyger ambivalent. Blake is asking the famous question ‘Why, if God is good and he created everything, did God create evil?’ Blake is exploring creation throughout the poem on a philosophical level but yet not telling us who the creator is (God or Gods).
The sixth stanza is a repeat of the first stanza with the exception of the first word of the last line .This I feel is again to emphases that the question of the creation of the Tyger is still unanswered .But with the change of the word ‘could’ to the word ‘dare’ .This shows that Blake now knows who has created the Tyger but is now saying how ‘dare’ this creator have the audacity to create something so perfect.
The overall structure and levels of the poem shows the use of the word symmetry in the first stanza was important in Blake’s eyes as, the poem was written symmetrically. Having such similar stanzas at the beginning and the end of the poem. Therefore Blake has matched the form of the poem with the meaning of the poem.
Throughout the poem the use of the rhyming lines and half rhyming lines are very important, especially in all stanzas lines 1 and 2 and then 3 and 4 both having rhyming couplets. The half rhymes are used in areas of the poem where Blake is emphasizing a Key point in the poem. An example is in the first and the last stanza the lines 3 and 4. In stanza four Blake also uses a Caesura to build up the excitement for the next verse where you find out who created the Tyger.
The levels of meaning summarised throughout the poem show that on the basic literal level is, the description of the Tyger and of the poem.
O n the philosophical level the poem asks the question of good and evil and, why if God was good and created everything did God create evil, also Blake is exploring creation, creators and God or Gods.
Blake also uses a slightly more obscure level called the metapoetic level that runs throughout the poem where Blake talks about the creators creating things and having the responsibility that it in tails. Something that would be lasting and too many would mean a great deal. Blake through the poem is actually referring to himself .He is also a creator creating his poetry which will last and the responsibility that he in tails knowing that it will mean a lot to many. Blake is writing a poem about writing a poem
‘The Lamb’ by William Blake
Little Lamb who made thee?
Doest though know who made thee?
In the first two lines of the first stanza on a literal level, you can automatically see that Blake is talking about and to a lamb, asking it who made it. But on a metaphorical level Blake has used the use of ‘Little Lamb’ to indicate and stress the importance of the small child like qualities of a lamb he does this also be using alliterations on the two ‘l’s’. The capital ‘L’s’ for Lamb on a philosophical level shows that Blake is, as well the Lamb, is also addressing our own Christian God .As Jesus is often referred to as, in biblical speech, ‘The Lamb of God’. The second line is asking a direct question ‘do you know who made you?’ This again brings you to thing of how you would address a child, in a simple direct and easily understandable manner.
‘Gave thee life and bid thee feed’
This next line is saying on the literal level .Who gave birth to you and fed you? This is shows the line to have a motherly, maternal theme with the actual language of the line having a soft gentle quality. It also highlights the importance of a mother to be able to feed her child. This can also be linked to a religious theme with the Virgin Mary and the importance of her maternal instinct towards Jesus, which was crucial. On a philosophical level we can relate this to ‘the giving of life and the feeding’ the Christian ritual of communion where Jesus said ‘ this is my body, take, and eat.’ He gave his life for us and fed us.
‘By the stream and o’er the mead;’
On a literal level this line is describing the lamb’s environment. By using the words ‘stream’ and ‘mead’, Blake makes you think of an open lush bucolic countryside image, a pastoral image .O n a philosophical level Blake relates the pastoral theme to ‘pastoral poetry’. Pastoral Poetry was written in the Greek and Roman times and then later in the 18th century. This style of poetry was often written in the imagery of a carefree life in beautiful, idyllic surroundings where all was well with heroes and no bad ever happened. This poetry alluded to the Garden of Eden related by its purity and the religious themes and to the perfection within its beauty .In turn this relates back to the Lamb, which as an innocent baby would have pictured life as idyllic and carefree.
‘Gave thee clothing of delight,’
‘Softest clothing woolly bright;’
‘Gave thee such a tender voice,’
‘Making all the vales rejoice:’
These next line on a literal level are describing the Lamb itself, with a beautiful soft white woollen coat and creating the image of a cute, pretty little innocent lamb playing in the fields with no care in the world .But, on a more philosophical level the description of the lamb to the reader indicates that Blake is trying to reinforce the innocence of the lamb it is soft to touch, gentle, young and probably because of this naive.
But yet is not unhappy, because the lamb knows nothing ,it is innocent and it doesn’t need to protect itself with hard skin or other form of protective shield .It does not know about danger .Also the religious element shows through as you also visualize a lamb at Easter and within spring time the birth of new things, news thing are created just as Jesus was re-born when he rose from the dead during Easter .On a literal level the noise of a lamb is also regarded as cute and loveable and during spring time with so many young lambs being born it does feel as though the vales and fields are full of their bleating .
‘Little Lamb who made thee’
‘Dost though know who made thee’
These last two lines of the poem’s first stanza are again as well as being repeated for emphasis of their importance, are, on a philosophical level reinforcing the Lambs innocence. Blake is repeating these lines as though to say. ‘How can you not know who has made you? But yet still be so content not knowing? Blake is indicating the lambs purity and innocence and naivety. Again, all through this stanza the language is gentle and direct indicating it is aimed towards a child.
‘Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,’
‘Little Lamb I’ll tell thee:’
In the beginning of this second stanza the question ‘do you know who made thee?’ is answered. This is repeated to show its importance and the language used is simple .The lamb is told directly .The answer is uncomplicated and to the point. Again Blake is steering the reader towards the idea that he is addressing a child, of which is somewhat true as the lamb is a baby.
‘He is called by thy name,’
‘For he calls himself a Lamb.’
‘He is meek & he is mild’
‘He became a little child:’
These next four lines of the second stanza are on a philosophical level directly linked to the religious theme and to Jesus. Blake has however merged the literal and philosophical levels together for the first line in the poem, openly stating the strong religious theme throughout the poem here in the middle of the second stanza. Even more obviously stated when Blake writes ‘ he became a little child ‘ referring to Jesus coming to earth in the form of a human baby. Then the line ‘He is meek & he is mild’ Jesus was often referred to on earth when a baby and child as meek and mild.
‘I a child and thou a Lamb’
This line is very important as it not only links the literal and philosophical levels together (the lamb and the religious themes of Jesus) but also a metaphorical level of the use of the word ‘child’ the human childhood, mothers maternal instincts and birth.
‘We are called by his name.’
‘Little Lamb God bless thee.’
‘Little Lamb God bless thee.’
Again Blake is linking the literal and the philosophical levels together. On the literal level by saying ‘little lamb God bless thee.’ That God is blessing the Lamb. But this has a much greater philosophical level that also runs throughout the whole poem. In the first stanza, Blake refers to the pastoral image and the Pastoral Poetry with its themes and imagery of perfection ‘Garden of Eden’. Religion, innocence and purity. But, this Pastoral Poetry style has an underlying irony connected to it, which, a writer in the seventeenth century called John Milton identified and wrote down in a poetry collection called ‘Paradise Lost’.
He wrote about the time when God threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. The innocence they had in the Garden because they knew of nothing else. They knew of nothing of being embarrassed for being naked so, they went around naked. So when they ate the forbidden fruit, they gained this knowledge and covered themselves up, and when they were thrown out of the garden began talking in metaphors. Metaphors are also associated with poetry .So; the irony of pastoral poetry is the fact that they are describing and writing about purity and innocence (the Garden of Eden), yet they are writing in metaphors which is poetry therefore reinforcing that the innocence is gone.
This relates to the poem ‘The Lamb’ and especially the last two lines of the poems last stanza because Blake is referring through himself that it is God speaking to Jesus. Saying thank-you (bless you) because God put Jesus on the earth as a helpless innocent baby to save the human race .But yet, the irony is that God had to destroy his own son; the innocence through the process which justifies that now the innocence is gone (Jesus has risen, was reborn and the innocence has gone from the earth.
The overall structure of the Lamb is on the form of the poem .Blake uses repeated lines for the emphasis of important points .Throughout the poem he also uses rhyming couplets frequently so as the occasional non- rhyming lines stand out indicating there importance .For example ,in the fourth line of the second stanza. Also Blake uses in the first stanza, the repeating of the first two lines at the end of the stanzas indicating the importance of this question making the first stanza appear symmetrical .
Perhaps to indicate Blake’s view of lambs as perfection and purity. On an overall literal level the poem is about the lamb and the description of the lamb .Then on a metaphorical level the poem is linked to childhood ,particularly human childhood ,the relationship between mother and child the purity and the innocence of a child . On a philosophical level the poem is very spiritual and directly aimed to the religious theme of Christianity, God and Jesus. Jesus often known as ‘The Lamb’ and the irony enfaced by Jesus’ suffering God have his own innocent son ,just to have the innocence destroyed by man, the one creature God had made in ‘his’ own image.
The Tyger and The Lamb’s comparisons and similarities.
On a literal level both poems talk about the physical appearance of their animals (The Tyger describes a tiger and The Lamb describes a lamb) .But on metaphorical levels the tiger is directed towards adulthood and The Lamb is directed towards childhood .The similarities are that both poems are directed towards human experiences. The Tyger symbolizes adult life it has knowledge and is therefore given chose. The Lamb symbolizes a child’s life .A child is innocent and has no knowledge; it does not need the need choice and is therefore content.
On a philosophical level the two poems are similar in the fact that both are exploring the theme of creation and both have very strong religious themes. But, they differ in the fact that the Tyger is exploring the question of Good and Evil and the particular question ‘Why if God is good and created everything, then did he then go and create evil’. Whereas in the Lamb Blake is directly linking the poem with Christianity, unlike in The Tyger where he only links the Christian God at the end of the poem and is quite indirect, having most of the poem referring to ‘Gods’. The Lamb is very much about God and the relationship between his son Jesus and his creation, man. And, the sacrifices he had to make (i.e. Destroy his own son Jesus’ innocence) to take responsibility for his own creation (mankind).
Throughout both poems the obscure metapoetic theme is also visible that Blake is writing a poem (a creative act) about writing a poem (a creative act) and in being very keen to emphasize the importance of responsibility which any creator has on their own creation .Blake is using the well known example of God and also the example which God created for himself of the sacrifices you have to make when things go wrong.
Now I can also see the links between the poems and their book placing .Why they were written and then why The Lamb answers The Tyger .After writing The Lamb Blake had obviously associated it with innocence and therefore was placed in a poem collection called ‘Songs of Innocence’.
Blake then answered The Lamb with The Tyger I think because having made the parallel between God and himself both being creators and that God too had to sacrifice something dear to him (his own son) to rescue something he was responsible for making, I think Blake himself was trying to answer the question ‘Why if God created man in the image of himself did he give him the opportunity to do evil why give man choice?’ Hence, Blake wrote The Tyger with this theme of choice, knowledge and experience and placed the poem in the collection of poem called ‘The Songs of Experience’.