The Tyger: The Hidden Meaning That Almost Everyone Misses

The Tyger poem cover image

The Tyger was written by William Blake and published in 1794 and was a part of the Songs of Experience collection. This poem is considered as the mirror opposite of another poem called The Lamb which was a part of the anthology called Songs of Innocence. The two poems exhibit opposite qualities conveyed through the medium of two creatures, and the God that made them. 

There is a religious undertone in the poem, as with most of Blake’s poems. What’s interesting is that the poem is not much about the tiger but the creator of this magnificent yet frightening animal. What hands could have molded this beast that could make even the immortals shiver?

Blake questions the intent and nature of God in this terrific composition of words and rhymes, excavating the beauty covered by fear and perhaps at the same time, finding fear in the beauty of God. Now let’s take a look at the poem:

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?

The meaning of The Tyger

There could be multiple interpretations of The Tyger but all of them will have a similar essence; the beauty in a terrifying animal and the motives of its creator. Blake is not as much intrigued by the animal as he is by the creator. He goes on about the experience the creator may have had while creating the Tyger.

Why is the Tyger spelled like that? Tyger is the archaic form of a tiger and Blake has used this spelling to create emphasis on the animal, showing it as a unique creature, something that was special to the creator. This spelling creates a sense of exoticness, something new and unknown. 

Another major thing about this poem is the reversal of views towards the creature and the creator. This is perhaps the essence of the poem and the most powerful message in it. Here it is;

Blake tries to bring the magnificence out of the fierceness of the tiger. The blazing eyes, the strength, the thunderous roar of the tiger are all very terrifying, but there is a beauty in this strength, a beauty which is often fogged by the fear of it. This is one part. 

Using the creature, Blake brings another side of the creator. Imagine the creator who did not tremble or fear creating something so fearful. Imagine how fearful the creator might be. Did the creator create the Tyger and the Lamb as well? Why did he create the two sides; innocence and malice, tiredness and fierceness? 

Just like Blake brings the beauty out of the fierceness of the tiger, he brings the fierceness amongst the beauty of the Creator. Perhaps behind the loving and caring nature of the beautiful God, there lies another side to it, a side that is fearless, thunderous, strength so immense that could forge a creature like a tiger and not tremble. This is the essence of the poem. 

The Tyger Poem
The Tyger by William Blake

Analyzing the poem stanza by stanza

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

An appreciation of the terrifying beauty of the tiger and the question about the strength and skill of the creator who created this beautiful creature. What sort of immortal being created the tiger because it is not something any mortal being could create. The tiger is the apex predator of the mortals. 

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?

Distant deeps or skies are an analogy for hell and heaven. Blake knows that the tiger is such a creature that was not made on earth. On what wings dare he aspire is Blake asking how did the creator aspire so high (hence the wings) to create the Tyger. What sort of Godly hands did force the fire to be confined? 

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?

Again, it is more about the creator than the creator. By giving the example of the Tyger, Blake shows the strength of God. How could God twist and turn the fibers of the tiger’s heart? What strengths must he possess that could make the tiger alive and yet not fear it?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

The heart was crafted by hands, but the brain was forged in a furnace. What sort of tool could possibly create this fierce creature. But most importantly, who possesses such power to have such tools?

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?

This is where we see the other side of God, the punishing side. Stars throwing down their spears refers to the angels showing their disapproval at this creation, for the Tyger will end the Lamb’s life. The heavens cried at the sight and even Blake asks; Did the same creator who made the innocent lamb make the fierce tiger?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Now the first stanza is repeated but with a slight alteration. In the last line, instead of asking who could create such a creature, Blake asks who dare create such a creature? It shifts from the ability of the creator to the strength of the creator. God is loving and caring but at the same time, punishing and devastating.

He holds both sides of the power. The power of love and innocence to guide you, love you, and the power to incinerate and destroy as well. In summary, The Tyger is about the beauty in the fierceness of the tiger and the fierceness in the beauty of the creator.

This concludes the article, but we want you here with us longer. Take a look at these interesting articles and read more about poems and their meaning;

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