Introduction: Overview of the Poem
William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” is one of the most famous pieces of English literature. It was first published in 1794 as part of his collection “Songs of Experience.” The poem consists of six quatrains, and it explores the beauty and terror of the natural world through the imagery of the tiger. The poem’s central question is, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” or, in other words, if God created both gentle and ferocious creatures, what does that say about the nature of God?
The Symbolism of the Tiger
The tiger is a powerful and majestic creature, and its symbolism in literature and mythology is complex. In many cultures, the tiger is associated with strength, courage, and ferocity. It is also linked to royalty and nobility, as tigers were once hunted by kings and emperors. In Blake’s poem, the tiger represents the awe-inspiring power of nature, as well as the mystery and unpredictability of the universe.
The Tiger as a Metaphor for Power
The tiger is often used as a metaphor for power, and this is certainly true in Blake’s poem. From the very first line, the tiger is described as “burning bright.” This description conveys both the tiger’s physical appearance and its energy. The tiger is not simply bright or colorful; it is burning, which suggests a fierce intensity. The tiger’s power is further emphasized in the line, “When the stars threw down their spears / And watered heaven with their tears.” This image of the tiger causing the stars to fall from the sky and the heavens to weep shows just how formidable the creature is.
The Tiger as a Metaphor for Energy
In addition to power, the tiger also represents energy. The poem describes the tiger as “fearful” and “dreadful,” which suggests that it is not to be trifled with. The tiger’s energy is conveyed through the repeated use of the word “burning.” The tiger is not simply bright; it is burning bright. This use of language suggests that the tiger is full of life and vitality.
The Tiger as a Metaphor for Passion
Passion is another theme that is associated with the tiger. In the poem, the speaker wonders, “What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” This question suggests that the tiger is so wondrous and awe-inspiring that it could only have been created by something divine. The tiger’s passion is also conveyed in the line, “And when thy heart began to beat / What dread hand? & what dread feet?” This description of the tiger’s heart beating suggests that it is not simply a machine, but a living, breathing creature with its own desires and passions.
The Tiger as a Metaphor for Fearlessness
The tiger is also associated with fearlessness. The poem describes the tiger as moving “in symmetry,” which suggests a sense of purpose and confidence. The tiger’s fearlessness is further emphasized in the line, “And when thy heart began to beat, / What dread hand? & what dread feet?” This description of the tiger’s heart beating suggests that it is not afraid of anything, even the creator who made it.
The Relationship between the Tiger and the Creator
The relationship between the tiger and the creator is a central theme of the poem. The speaker wonders if the same divine force that created gentle creatures like lambs and doves could also have made the ferocious tiger. The poem’s final lines, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” suggest that the answer to this question is not clear-cut. The tiger’s beauty and power are awe-inspiring, but they are also terrifying.
The Tiger as a Representation of Nature
The tiger is also a representation of nature. It is a part of the natural world, and its beauty and ferocity reflect the unpredictability of the universe. The poem suggests that nature is both beautiful and terrifying, and that it cannot be easily understood or controlled.
The Use of Contrast in Describing the Tiger
The poem uses contrast to describe the tiger. It is both “fearful” and “dreadful,” but it is also “burning bright.” The tiger is both a thing of beauty and a thing of terror. This use of contrast emphasizes the complexity of the natural world and the difficulty of understanding it.
Conclusion: Significance of the Tiger’s Description
In conclusion, the tiger’s description in Blake’s poem is significant for a number of reasons. It represents power, energy, passion, fearlessness, and nature itself. The poem’s central question about the relationship between the creator and the tiger highlights the complexity of the natural world and the difficulty of understanding it. Ultimately, the tiger’s description in the poem is a reflection of the awe-inspiring beauty and terror of the universe.