The Tyger by William | Summary, Analysis, Themes, Historical Context, Structure and Literary Devices

The Tyger Analysis: “The Tyger” is a famous poem by ingenious English poet William Blake and is often known to be the most widely anthologized or divergent poem in the English language.

The poem consists entirely of questions about the nature of God and its creation, particularly whether the same God that created vulnerable beings like a lamb could also have made the fearsome tiger.

For one of the most challenging religious’s questions: why does God allow evil to exist? The tiger becomes a symbol. At the same time, however, the poem “The Tyger” is an expression of wonder and marvel at the tiger and its fearsome power, and by extension, the power of both nature and God.

Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.

Summary of The Tyger

The poem does begin with the speaker asking a menacing tiger what kind of holy being could have created it: “What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame they fearful symmetry?” Each ensuing stanza contains further questions, all of which are refined to this first one.

The speaker wonders from what part of the ether could the tiger’s blazing eyes have come, and who would have ventured to handle that fire? What sort of physical existence and what kind of dark artisanship would have been required to “twist the sinews” of the heart of the tiger? The speaker wonders how once that dreadful heart “began to beat,” its creator would have had the mettle to continue the job.

Comparing the creator to a blacksmith, he contemplates the furnace and the anvil that the project would have required and the smith who could actually have wielded them. And when this job was done, the speaker actually wonders, how would the creator or god have felt? “Did he smile observing his work?” Could this possibly person or entity be the same being who made the lamb?

The Tyger Themes

Tiger and Lamb; experience and innocence: The setting of “The Lamb” is in a pastoral and serene world. In contrast, this poem is actually set in a world full of dark forests. The lamb is meek and mild, while the tiger is fierce and fearful. Hence, these represent the contrasting states of innocence and experience, both of which are stages that every man must pass through in his life.

The God of the New Testament: In asking whether the same God created both the lamb and the tiger, Blake is talking about the God of the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament is a cruel God. But the God of the New Testament is both harsh and kind. He disciplines us but also loves us. That is why he is able to create both a mild creature like a lamb as well as a scary one like the tiger.

In a benevolent universe, the open awe of “The Tyger” contrasts with the easy confidence, in “The Lamb,” of a child’s innocent faith.

The Tyger by William

Historical Context of The Tyger

William Blake’s late 18th-century poem entitled “The Tyger” takes a distinctive look into the soul of a human in comparison to a tiger. This poem was actually written for Blake’s 1794 collection entitled Songs of Experience, which contained a collection of poetry with mirroring or opposite themes to his 1789 collection entitled Songs of Innocence, containing more light-hearted poems.

William Blake had written “The Tyger” to serve as a mirroring theme or sequel to his work from Songs of Innocence authorized “The Lamb,” and a number of lines even repeated and several themes are mimicked in “The Tyger” from the poem “The Lamb.”

The historical context found from both of these collections offers insight into London citizens’ everyday lives, more specifically with “The Tyger” Blake describes the two different kinds of attitudes people have conversely with both poems.

With the basis for the theme of “the Tyger” being that which offers a different interpretation than “the Lamb,” Blake wanted to express his philosophy by gauging two different sides of human nature. (Damrosch, 172-3)

“The Tyger” was written to express Blake’s view on human’s natural ferocity through comparison with a tiger in the jungle, an opposite depiction of the innocence found in “the Lamb.”

Structure and Form of The Tyger Analysis

The poem “The Tyger” is comprised of six quatrains in rhymed couplets. The meter is regular and rhythmic, and its hammering beat suggestive of the smithy that is the poem’s central image.

The simplicity and neat proportions of the poem’s form perfectly suit its regular structure, in which a string of questions all contribute to the articulation of a single, central idea.

The Tyger Literary Devices

“The Tyger” by poet William Blake is a poem that consists of six quatrains in rhymed couplets, and it has a rhythmic meter. There are four characteristics that a well-written poem consists of sound, literary devices, imagery, and symbols.

These distinctive characteristics do a good job at outlining the theme of the poem that is essentially about God’s creations of good and evil. The symbolism in the story includes using the tiger as evil, the lamb as goodness, and distant deeps as hell, along with skies representing heaven.

In addition, the author uses literary and sound devices to add a deeper layer of meaning to the poem. These devices add another element to the poem in order to make the poem clearer. When a person reads an allusion, they will pick up on references from history, literary texts, and/or religion. These devices allow the poem to flow and have rhythm, making the poem simpler to understand.

Summary of The Tyger

Detailed Analysis of The Tyger

First Stanza

“Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

The famous opening line, known all over the world by both adults and children, brings the most dynamics of big cats to close up, live, to the reader. For Blake, this animal has the fire inside; it burns; it is flame and therefore can only be metaphorical in nature.

This creature lives in the jungle and cannot be held in (framed) by any immortal or mortal. The symmetry actually relates to the idea of identity; it cannot be taken apart or halved—it is the same whichever you look at it.

In this sense, the tiger is considered to be wild energy, the manifestation of destructive power, of alluring extraordinary raw life.

The forests of the night serve to reinforce the contrast—dark environment (societal growth and political struggles) from which springs the flame of revolution.

Blake was also desirous of the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg’s musings and writings and could well have been quite influenced by the “transformational fires” that bring about spiritual re-establishment.

Second Stanza

“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?”

The questions continue, but this time was concentrating on the mystery of the fire and its origins or inception. Blake perhaps was encouraging that the fire (of the tiger and therefore of revolutionary humanity) and coupled with hope (the skies) and with it the light came from the depths, of emotion (distant deeps).

The mention of aspiration and wings brings to mind the story of Icarus, who, though inventive and brave, flew too high to the sun with his waxen and pallid wings and fell to his demise.

And the hand snatching fire echoes the story of Prometheus, who did steal fire from the divine and gave it to humanity so they could become completely civilized. Blake represents to some the idea of the challenge of progress and human struggle come what may.

Other critics and scholars lean toward the influence of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic poem written in 1667 (later edited and published and in 1674), in which the ungovernable Satan battles against the forces of Good for the control of Heaven.

Satan actually loses but manages to retain all the power in Hell as an enigmatic hero who has helped “explain the hypocrisy of God” and caused the Fall of Man.

A massive fight for the cause, a journey through Chaos, a revolution—the parallels with earthly struggle and revolution are obvious.

Fact that some classical illustrations for Paradise Lost were produced by William Blake and was by all accounts an avid reader of Milton’s epic.

Third Stanza

“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?”

This stanza actually concentrates on the sensuality of the struggle to manipulate and, for change, bring to life in some new form a powerful force.

Shoulders, hand, sinews, heart, and feet—here we have the deep-seated nature of the beast, a fearful possibility (dread in this context means to be feared). The limbs are represented some bodily parts that grip (hands) and ground (feet).

Again, as in the previous stanza, two questions are metaphorically posed.

Fourth Stanza

“What the hammer? what the chain,

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp,

Dare its deadly terrors clasp!”

In this stanza, we move from the solely human energy of stanza three into the society that is industrial and Blake awareness and his artistic contemporaries during their lifetimes. New factory and technology production, together with the birth of worker exploitation and capitalism, was very much in affirmation.

Is Blake here foreseeing the horrors of the end of the old ways and mass production, life on the land, or centuries in the making?

The new and evolved revolutionary force is made up of the worker and the mob, precisely elements that are related to the creation of steel, hammer, chain, furnace, anvil, which are metonyms for the industry.

Fifth Stanza

“When the stars threw down their spears

And water’d heaven with their tears:

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

Vivid imagery, which has it’s quite of its inspiration from Paradise Lost again? The Angelic War, which tore apart hell and heaven, was in some minds all God’s doing, the omnipotent One.

Joy turns to tears . . . how could raw and innocent destruction, Tiger and Lamb, come from the same single Source? That God smile is perhaps not a benevolent one, right?

Sixth Stanza

“Tyger Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”

A repeat of the first word with the exception of the last line, a subtle yet telling change of a single word- Could to Dare. To dare implies a certain kind of potential danger that holds a warning, that if the symmetry is framed (held, kept inside boundaries), there could be a helluv price to pay.

Here ends a short poem, full of imagery, ostensibly, questions, and symbolism about an exotic animal but holding so much more.

Similar Poetry

Readers who actually enjoyed ‘The Tyger’ should also consider reading some of William Blake’s other best-known pieces. For example, ‘The Lamb,’ which is time and again considered to be the counterpart or companion piece to ‘The Tyger.’

It is a loving and warm poem in which the poet describes the lamb’s kind nature while alluding to Christ. Other interesting pieces of William Blake are ‘The Sick Rose’ and ‘A Poison Tree. ‘The first is another quite well-known piece that uses allusions and metaphors to speak on a woman’s virginity. In ‘A Poison Tree,’ the poet considers anger and how one might confront or deal with it.

What is the purpose of The Tyger by William Blake?

“The Tyger” was written to express Blake’s view on human’s natural ferocity through comparison with a tiger in the jungle, an opposite depiction of the innocence found in “the Lamb”.

What is the main message of the Lamb and The Tyger?

Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” is more suggestive to the nature of God. The idea is that the same God who made the lamb also made the tiger, so unless it is suggested that God created evil, then the tiger must not be “evil”.

What is the thesis of The Tyger?

In the poem “The Tyger” William Blake is stating that God should readily punish the creatures he brings into existence. God created the Lamb, but he also created the Tyger, and is so directly responsible for the misery of that same lamb, the Tyger that would prey upon it.

What is the authors purpose in The Tyger?

Blake’s purpose in writing the TWO poems was to show the contrasting sides of God in hopes of developing a fuller understanding of who God really is.

What is the principal perception of the poem The Tyger?

The tiger has fury and grounds to believe in its own strength. The tiger could be understood as similar to our psychological view of the ego. It is the part of us that believes in its own power, in its own vision.