William Blake wrote two interlocking poems, ‘The Tiger’ and ‘The Lamb’, which are both obviously referring to animals, but it is the different approaches to form, style and language choice that are used to different effect. Blake uses ‘The Tiger’ as a vehicle to represent all of his ideologies of fear at the time. As with all animals such as a tiger, it is the natural instinct of every man to fear and instinctively desire to harm them, which is shown through words such as ‘dread’ ”deadly’ and ‘spears’.
In this poem, the word ‘stars’ is used to symbolise, in Blake’s eyes, what a tiger represents at first glance.In Blake’s time, people saw the stars as a symbol of everything that oppressed human beings and removed their freedom, especially as an image of war and human aggression. This also represents the impact of the tiger’s creation on society, where ‘He’ smiles in satisfaction at what he has made, when in fact it’s appalling strength even caused the stars to abandon their armament.
The tiger therefore represents all evil there is that exists in the world, but this is seen a s acceptable because without evil, there is nothing with which to compare good and consequently there can be no existence of good, such as the lamb.
The Lamb’ is therefore in complete contrast and represents all that is good in the world. The word ‘lamb’ connotates images of innocence and wholeness and is for this reason, compared to a child, which implies sweetness and goodness. The poems are a contemplation of the fact that besides peacefulness and gentleness, as shown in ‘The Lamb’, the world includes fierce strength, terrifying in its possibilities of destructiveness, like ‘The Tiger’. To see that the tigers fierceness and the lambs gentleness are also contrasting qualities of the human mind is a very slight extension beyond the simplest literal sense.
Evidently, word choice in the poems is very important as it enables an audience to see the many faceted personality of a tiger, as it is clear that they are not solely aggressive, which can be seen when a mother nurtures her cubs and all savage images are out ruled. Words such as ‘wings’ ‘heaven’ and ‘smile’ conjure images of a saintly beast. This is a direct link to ‘The Lamb’, in which similar language choice portrays a wholly and god sent creature. In both poems, Blake refers to an exterior male, ‘He’, for example in ‘The Tiger’ “Did he smile his work to see,” (line 19) and in ‘The Lamb’ “He is called by thy name,” (line 13).
I believe that William Blake is referring to either Jesus Christ or God, due to his picture of God and his ideology of the creation of the world, taken from Christianity, but how these views differed from the teaching of the churches. Throughout the poem ‘The Lamb’, the word ‘God’ is repeated to similar effect and this shows him as a benign creator, who ‘made’ the lamb, in response to the seemingly rhetorical questions, used as a device to engage the reader, “Dost thou know who made thee? ” This idea is repeated in ‘The Tiger’ in which there is a direct reference to the lamb and ‘He’ who created both animals.Did he who made the lamb make thee? ” This shows and questions whether one person could have created two such delicately intricate, yet very different animals. The quote ‘What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry,’ refers to the tiger as such a beautiful creature that it is unlikely to have been created by any mortal hand, and is so another reference to an all-powerful God.
The two poems demonstrate the power struggle between strength and weakness in the world. The lamb is continuously referred to as ‘little’ and the alliteration of the ‘l’ emphasises this and this is in contrast to the tigers somewhat mechanical qualities.This is the second semantic field shown in ‘The Tiger’ and the enormity and mere strength of the animal is shown through selective word choice such as ‘hammer’ ‘chain’ and ‘anvil’. Colour is a poignant theme in ‘The Tiger’; where in another semantic field of fire is used.
Words such as ‘burnt’ ‘fire’ and ‘burning’ are used to build an image of reds and oranges, which are the colours used to symbolise danger and threatening, such as the assumed personality of the tiger. The description ‘burning bright’, emphasised by alliteration could either represent the tiger as a symbol of a ‘burning’ quality including wrath and passion.However the word ‘bright’ conveys incandescence, white heat and brings a sense of something glorious and shining. In both poems, a strong rhythmetical structure is maintained throughout, which shows stability in the content and also reflects the movement of the animal in ‘The Tiger’.
It shows the slow and perhaps stalking movement of the tiger through the powerful rhythm. Both poems have a steady rhyming pattern wherein each stanza consists of rhyming couplets to add emphasis to what is being said.Repetition is used continuously in both ‘The Tiger’ and ‘The Lamb’, for example, the first stanza is repeated in ‘The Tiger’, which creates an equal number of stanzas and reflects the balanced nature of the animal, as well as adding emphasis. Both poems are made up of questions, all of which are seemingly rhetorical, which aids audience participation.
In the lamb, these questions are answered for a sense of completion. Blake’s rhythms are at the same time forceful and supple, some based on ballad metres, some metrically free and influenced by the bible, but all returning to the rhythm of speech.
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