William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ is a vastly popular and much quoted poem from his collection Songs Of Experience. It describes the creation of the tiger and in doing so, emphasizes the dichotomy of creation and marvels at the power of the creator.
The first stanza describes the fiery tiger in the dark night forest. Blake wonders who had made the immaculate symmetry of the tiger’s body. The creation of the tiger’s eyes is described next. The poet questions where deep below the earth or high in the heavens did the wild fire which is now contained in the tiger’s eyes used to burn. He simultaneously marvels the agility of the Creator, God, who could fly to such a place and seize such scalding fire to make the tiger. The next two stanzas describe the creation of the heart and then the brain of the tiger. Blake is intimidated by the strength and art which must have been required to build the muscles of the tiger’s hard heart. It is now that the tiger comes to life after its heart is placed within its frame and the poet feels awe at the agile hands and feet of the tiger. The fourth stanza compares god to a blacksmith, who used a hammer, a chain and an anvil to furnish the brain of the tiger. After the brain was given shape the poet imagines that it was cooked in a blasting furnace which counts for the ferocity and ruthlessness of the tiger. With the brain and heart in place, the creation of the tiger is completed and this has such an impact on all the heavens that the stars surrender, their twinkling light nothing when compared to the bright flare of the tiger’s eyes. The skies open to let down torrents of rain as an expression of sorrow to see such a dangerous being given life. The last two lines of the fifth stanza are enough to summarize the entire central idea of the poem. The poet wonders whether the same creator who created the meek and docile lamb, was the one to create the ferocious and deadly tiger. The sixth and last stanza is a repetition of the first, with the exception of one crucial word. Where before Blake had been wondering who could create such a being, he now questions who dares to do so.
One of the main literary devices that Blake has put to effective use in the poem is symbolism. Throughout one notices that each of the tiger’s attributes is symbolized with some form of fire. It is ‘burning’ brightly in the night forest, its eyes contain fire, and its brain was made in a ‘furnace’. This constant comparison to something as consuming and deadly as fire makes the fierceness of the tiger clear. Also paradox has been used to highlight the hidden message behind the poem: the fact that God had to use his strength to ‘twist’ the muscles while making the tiger’s heart, which is supposed to be the most delicate and fragile organ of the body, compliments the question which is asked throughout. Why would the Maker who made a thing as sweet and innocent as the lamb, take pleasure in creating the tiger, which would devour and ravish it?
That is the potent theological debate, I think, which Blake has addressed in this poem. A bold suggestion, especially considering the time in which he lived, is made here that God, who created mankind also reveled in creating its own undoing, by creating evil. It is something that one sees in one’s day to day life. If god had created man, then why is there so much of poverty, bloodshed, disease and all other kinds of calamities that harms his creation?
Another interpretation of the poem could be the focus on the balance in the universe. If there is good, there is also bad; if there is life, there is also death; if there is light, there is also darkness. This is the dichotomy of creation; God has created the world in such a way that it balances itself, as can be gleaned from his creation of the tiger to balance the docile lamb.
Also, I think, the poem is a comment on society. As the power of creating both good and evil resided with God, the same power to do both good and bad resides with Man. If man choses he can a knife to carve and create, or to kill and destroy. Every coin has two sides, as every being has in itself the power to cause harmony or destruction; and this is proved in this poem. I enjoyed Blake’s Tyger immensely as it evoked in my mind several questions and debates that compelled me to think beyond the previous boundaries of my imagination.