Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

This is a very familiar poem from William Blake, probably one of his best-known, along with Jerusalem. A strong part of its appeal is the strong rhythm which comes through when reading it aloud, adding to the sense of excitement associated with the image of the tiger. This poem is often accompanied by a fairly fearsome image of a tiger stalking through the long grass, presumably hunting for prey. A bit like Shere Khan in Kipling’s Jungle Book, the original rather than the Disneyfied, not-so-fearsome version.

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

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?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

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?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

From <http://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/best/william_blake&gt;

The first stanza (which is also the last except for one word changing) draws attention to the exceptional nature of the tiger – burning bright against the dark backdrop of the night, both literally and metaphorically, this is a noteworthy animal.

Lines three and four begin the lengthy series of questions which make up the rest of the poem. The poet wonders what human or perhaps superhuman power or intellect could imagine a creature as magnificent as a tiger if it were not already there. In reality, the questions are expressions of wonder at the beauty, strength, proportion and other attributes of the tiger. We get the sense that the poet sees the Tiger as truly an impressive beast in every sense. And the poet muses about whether there was some Creator who put all this together and was happy with his work.

The poem finishes with the same stanza it begins with, except that the word “could” is replaced by the word “dare”, emphasising the fearsome reputation of the tiger and even giving the impression that the poem itself can bring you uncomfortably, and even dangerously, close to the animal.

Better run….

The Poetry Dude


2 thoughts on “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

    1. Thank you ge gallas. Your Poet and the Flea project looks fascinating and I will indeed subscribe.

      Also, there have been several other Blake poems featured on this blog. Check out the blog posts from November 24th 2014, December 17th 2014, March 21st 2015, May 11th 2015, August 3rd 2015 and September 5th 2015.

      Liked by 1 person

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