"But Blake's entire work might have been forgotten in the years after his death were it not for one poem in Songs of Experience in which the striking image achieved immediate popularity. Almost every English schoolchild knows it by heart, yet its implications stir the most sophisticated to ponder the mystery of the ultimate creative power."
"The lasting and overwhelming response to this poem acknowledges the recognition of a central concept in Blake's work. This is the need to become aware of the other side of God, the side not accepted either by social agreement or by orthodox religious practice. Blake says that while he who made the Lamb is worshipped and praised in all the churches, he who fashioned the Tyger to pierce the darkness of the tangled forest with his perceptive eye, is also God. God of the Lamb is worshipped at prescribed interval, but God of the Tyger is held in fear by day and night, for none may escape him when be pursues. Blake wrote as though he felt that enough had been said about the symbol of gentleness which is traditionally associated with Jesus. He was more concerned with the fierce and the frightful which threatens innocence and light. And it follows that such a man would address himself boldly also to the darker area of man's life, which is hidden in shadow and must be invaded and explored if man is to approach any degree of self-awareness."
|Yale Center for British Art |
Book of Urizen
Plate 5, copy C
"Always there have been those who could experience these forces as tremendous powers which might threaten to overwhelm them at certain times and at other times infuse them with a creative urge which would drive them to produce original ideas, works of art or new scientific concepts. Blake was fascinated by this extra dimension of psychic life and he felt impelled to write how it manifested in him. Without the detachment of the modern psychologist, he wrote of his own experience more as a participant than as an observer and yet the raw material of the inner drama is all there...Our position enables us to take a step away from Blake and to consider his writing as descriptive of the psychological processes that were going on in him. This is not to imply that those processes are basically different in kind from those which are going on in every man. It is only that, acting on his naive conviction that what he wrote was dictated by an unseen voice and that his paintings were no more the reproductions of what the inner eye had already perceived, Blake threw a brilliant light into a realm that for most men is sheathed in the darkness of disbelief."