Tyger by William Blake Term Paper

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¶ … Tyger

Poem of Pulsating Questioning -- theological troubles in the structure of William Blake's "The Tyger"

How can the world be good, if there is evil in the world? How can the creator of the world, God, be good, if evil beings and evil actions exist in the world? The existence of evil animals, in William Blake's "The Tyger" motivates the poet to ask potentially sacrilegious questions about the natural goodness of the earth's creation, and, by extension, the goodness of the world's creator. The poet Blake structures his poem upon a series of question that similarly compel the reader to ask penetrating theological questions, and to enter a state of uncertainty about the goodness of the world that is never resolved.

Blake suggests at times that Lucifer is responsible for the tiger, and for evil in the world. But by refusing to say definitively that the devil is responsible for evil and God and Christ are responsible for the nature of the lamb and the holy parts of the world, Blake implies the possibility that all of the world may not be good. The nursery-rhyme-like tone of the poem posits a certain level of comfort that is continually undercut by the powerful images of the central image and animal. There is no answer to who is the tiger's creator, unlike the creator of the lamb.

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Rhythmically, William Blake's poem "The Tyger" is structured on a series of troches, the rhythmic opposite of the iamb. Unlike iambic pentameter, which attempts to emulate the patterns of human speech, in an unstressed and stressed pattern, troches are structured in a stressed and unstressed pattern, and there are only three metrical feet, rather than five, every line. This brevity and syllable stress creates a pulsating, forward-moving sense of energy throughout the poem. The pouncing rhythm mimics the rhythm of the tiger, thus the reader is forced to enter the world of the tiger as he or she reads the poem, and by extension the mind of the poet.

Term Paper on Tyger by William Blake Assignment

Nursery rhymes, of course, often have similar, unnatural trochaic stressors, to suggest the sing-song, comforting and song-like quality in the text. However, the "Tyger" as a poem is a kind of perverse nursery rhyme, not a "Song of Innocence." The rhyme also suggests a kind of parody of Nursery rhymes designed to comfort young listeners, rather than a faithful replication of the rhyme's gentle tone. Like nursery rhymes or folk tales that answer questions of origin, like who made the tiger or the lamb, the "Tyger" poses the same sorts of questions, but the poem tantalizingly refuses to answer these questions.

The animal of the poet lurks and waits, but never makes a move, like the answer to the beast's origin never comes. This creates a sense of religious questioning in the mind of the reader, but not in a comforting and healthy sense, for no answer to the question of why evil beasts in the world were created is offered and the poem is never resolved, even at the end. The consonance and assonance or similarity of consonant and vowel sounds in the poem's paired words like 'night' and 'light' makes the unrhymed and dissimilar word 'symmetry' to suggest the animals' stripes stand out, like the startling discovery of furry stripes in the forests of the jungle. The surprising sound of "symmetry" further suggests a question -- is the tiger symmetrical with the rest of creation, even though it is evil? Its symmetry is discordant to the eye, as the word is discordant to the ear, and the tiger's evil is also discordant with creation.

The poem is part of Blake's "Songs of Experience," poetic cycle and is often paired against Blake's poem "The Lamb," the animal symbol of Christ and holy innocence. This reference to the lamb is also included in the line: "Did he smile his work to see? / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Blake's religious purpose is evident early on in the poem, implicit in the question: "What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" Who created the tiger, Blake asks in a rhetorical question, stressing through enjambment the questioning words of 'what' and 'could.'

By asking about the creator in the form of a question, Blake seems to suggest a questioning of the nature of the divine, rather than a confirmation of the creator's hands in the creation all of the animal kingdom, as specified in the Book of Genesis. Also, the stress of the tiger's "burning bright" through alliteration stresses the fiery nature of the tiger's coat, and by implication the almost hellish character of the animal, in the forest of the night and darkness, rather than in the sun and light. If God created the light, why did God also create darkness? If God is responsible for an animal that can consume human beings, how can God be good -- Blake does not state this outright, but it is difficult not to ask these questions, in the mind of the thinking reader who has also perhaps recently read "The Lamb."

The potential evil of the tiger intensifies in the progression of the stanzas, as the poet's view of the tiger grows more fearful, paranoid and suspicious. The poet asks more and more unanswerable theological questions about creation. As the poet grows more wary he seems to also grow more perplexed of the nature of the divine, or the questionable and mysterious creator that gave birth to such a creature: "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?"

Wings suggest an angel, but a Lucifer-like angel (after all, Lucifer does mean 'light.'). Like Lucifer, the devil aspiring to rule heaven rather than God, the tiger burns on earth, with a fiery glow in his eyes and coat. The tiger's origins are deep and far away, even though he is there, before the poet, or in the poet's mind. The poet looks into the eyes of the tiger, and finds no common sympathy with the creature, he can only see the alien, the evil, and more questions about the evil nature of the animal's creation, and the creation of the fallen world arise, as the poem evolves on a series of even more pressing unanswered questions, creating kind of a drumbeat of uncertainty.

Blake's readers, well-versed in the Bible as their common point of reference would almost immediately have understood the references to the devil, Lucifer, and the Fall of Man in Eden through knowledge, and yes, "Songs of Experience" rather than "Songs of Innocence." The third stanza of Blake's poem even begins with a question in media res suggesting a question about creation: "And what shoulder, & what art. / Could twist the sinews of thy heart? / and when thy heart began to beat, / What dread hand? / & what dread feet?" The physical structure of the creator of the tiger, the creator's shoulders and feet and hands become visions for the poet, but vague and questionable visions.

And then, suddenly, the reader enters the furnaces of hell itself, the hell that has given birth to this living, breathing creation on earth that is one of the animals said to have been created by God in the Bible: "What the hammer? what the chain? / in what furnace was thy brain? / What the anvil? what dread grasp/Dare its deadly terrors clasp?" From merely observing the tiger from afar, the reader is suddenly transported into the furnace and fires of hell, and the image is of the tiger being forged in steel and metal.

The angel's revolt in heaven and heaven's revolt upon itself is reflected in the creation of the tiger,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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