Tyger ! Tyger ! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye

The Tyger by William Blake

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Question:

Reference to context

Tyger ! Tyger ! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Dec 2018, & June 2013

 

Answer

Reference

The above lines are taken from the poem The Tyger written and composed by William Blake.

Context

William Blake is considered to be one of the greatest visionaries of the early Romantic era. Today Blake’s poetic genius has largely outstripped his visual artistic renown.

"The Tyger" is a poem made of questions. Addressing "The Tyger," the speaker questions it as to its creation – essentially: "Who made you Mr. Tyger?" "How were you made? Where? Why? What was the person or thing like that made you?" The poem is often interpreted to deal with issues of inspiration, poetry, mystical knowledge, God, and the sublime (big, mysterious, powerful, and sometimes scary.)

Explanation

These lines are taken from the final stanza of the poem which echoes the first stanza. Just like the first stanza, this stanza also begins with the repetition of the name ("Tyger, tyger"). The repetition creates a chant-like mood to the whole poem, which contributes to the mysteriousness. The word burning bright may describe the appearance of the Tyger (tigers have fiery orange fur), or it may on a deeper level describe a kind of energy or power that this Tyger has. In the last line dare means that now instead of questioning the ability of the creator, Blake questions his nerve.

Analysis

The symbol of the Tyger is one of the two central mysteries of the poem. It is unclear what it exactly symbolizes, but scholars have hypothesized that the Tyger could be inspiration, the divine, artistic creation, history, the sublime, or vision itself. The point is, the Tyger is important, and Blake’s poem barely limits the possibilities.

The "forests of the night" are dark and mysterious, cloaking and hiding the fiery symbol of the Tyger. Since the Tyger may have been created in either Hell (deeps) "or" Heaven (skies), it remains ambiguous as to whether the Tyger is good or bad. Regardless, it would seem to us that being in the forests of the night with a "fearful," "burning" Tyger on the loose, is scary, whether abstract or not. The body parts referenced in these lines – hands and eyes– are examples of synecdoche. Synecdoche is when a part of something is used to refer to the whole thing. For example, when someone yells "All hands on deck!" he doesn’t actually mean that he wants a bunch of severed hands on the deck; rather, he wants the people and their hands to help with the ship. So, the phrase "immortal hand" references the whole being or person that the hand belongs to, while at the same time focusing on the hands as the means of creation. The eye is representative of the whole body and person, but also focuses (ha ha) our attention on the faculty of sight. Also, by including only parts of the creator in the actually poem, Blake contributes to the mystery of who or what he actually is. It’s like having only a few extreme close-ups of a person.

The imagination, the poem ultimately suggests, is the location of a miraculous but dangerous kind of creative strength. That's why it takes bravery—the willingness to "dare," as the poem would put it—to create anything of any worth out of the "fire" of creativity.


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Sweet moans , dovelike sighs, Chase not slumber from thy eyes! - William Blake

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