‘The Tyger’ – William Blake

The Scrapbook

William Blake, ‘The Tyger’

William Blake’s
poetry was nominated by Sarrah Peerbux, a sixth form student attending
the Sutton Trust Summer School in Cambridge.

This poem, ‘The
Tyger’, is part of Blake’s collection, Songs of Experience.

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?

Further Reading

William Blake was born in 1757 and died in 1827. ‘The Tyger’ is taken from his book, Songs of Experience, which was first published in 1794, and subsequently republished in various different forms.

The language and imagery of his poems often appear very simple, but they are often very ambiguous. In this poem, for instance, what do you think the tiger is? Is it just a tiger in the forest? Or is it meant to symbolize something? Despite the apparent straightforwardness of his writing, Blake doesn’t give us any easy answers.

If you like this poem and would like to read more like it, you could start by reading the rest of the Songs of Experience, or the Songs of Innocence, another of Blake’s collections. He also wrote a number of other philosophical poems and collections, such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which you might enjoy reading.

Blake was also an artist, who designed pictures and illustrations for many of his poems. In many cases, these pictures can alter or affect the way that we read the poems: if you have enjoyed this poem you might also like to have a look at them. You can see his drawing for ‘The Tyger’ here.

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