Monday, March 21, 2011

The Tyger

Among Blake's Songs of Experience is a poem called The Tyger, which is placed in opposition to The Lamb, from Songs of Innocence. Among a multitude of commonly studied and analyzed poems, The Tyger is interpreted here as "an intriguing moral critique of Protestant Christianity, or more specifically, a theological query into the motivations of Creation itself."

Songs of Experience, Song 42, (E 24)
The Tyger

"Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests 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 sieze the fire?

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?

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 water'd 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?"

Blake frequently used the image of the Lamb referring to the Lamb of God (Jesus!). In contrast the carnivorous Tyger has an obvious association with Satan. So he's posing the age old question "did God create the Savior and the Devil." Blake emphatically questioned it and disbelieved it to the point of denial. He stated it later in this picturesque way:
Thinking as I do that the Creator of this World is a very Cruel Being & being a Worshipper of Christ I cannot help saying the Son O how unlike the Father First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the Head Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it"
(Description of the Last Judgment, Erdman 565)

If you were not already aware
how radically Blake's theology diverges from 'conventional religion', this should certainly convince you. The Lamb and the Tyger, or similar metaphors oppose one another throughout Blake's myth until eventually Satan can be perceived as a State rather than a Person, a state that can be happily annihilated as Time ends, passing into Eternity.

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