There is a clear contrast between Blake’s poems ‘The Tiger’ (Songs of Experience) and ‘The Lamb’ (Songs Of Innocence), in both poems Blake brings together imagery, ideas and themes that are present throughout the volumes, but his approach is more ambivalent than could be expected. Both poems offer an insight into Blake’s opinions on many contemporary issues such as politics and religion.
The title ‘The Lamb’ incorporates many heavy religious connotations into the poem, and both poems could show Blake’s opinions of God and creation.
In ‘The Lamb’ Blake questions the tender, passive lamb about its creator, he asks ‘Dost thou know who made thee? ‘ And at first it may appear that the poem possess strong evangelical qualities, Blake writes about a ‘tender voice’ and ‘he calls himself a Lamb’. In the poem Blake is able to use the lamb as a creative metaphor for himself, God and God’s people. However throughout ‘The Tiger’, Blake is amazed and almost dismissive that the ‘burning’ tiger was created by the same creator as the ‘tender’ lamb and the God that Blake presents seems to have a much more vengeful and militaristic quality.
Blake appears to be admirable of the Tiger and it’s beautiful ‘symmetry’, and also praises the intricacies of it’s workings, but there is a sense of Blake being afraid of the Tiger, with him commenting on it’s ‘deadly terrors’, his use of the word ‘dare’ instead of ‘could’ and also in the way that Blake is afraid to question the tiger directly, as he did the lamb, but instead employs rhetorical questions such as ‘What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry? ‘.Although Blake could not be described as an atheist he is critical of religious practises and institutions, and these poems could have been used by him to present the irony of the church believing that a caring, benevolent God exists aswell as a much more vindictive, powerful God. Another religious stance on the poem, would be to say that the Tiger represents God, and Blake is questioning whether man has the ability to comprehend or even attempt to understand God. It is possible to take a political approach to both poems; Blake was a Romantic poet, who wrote at the time of the French Revolution.
The writings of the Romantic poets contained a reaction to the new ideas of industry, science and capitalism that the revolution was bringing, and a sense of nostalgia towards the departure from nature, religion and feudal life. ‘The Tiger’ can be seen as a reaction to the French revolution – another Romantic writer had wrote about the violent revolution describing it as ‘at best a place of fear’ and the now devastated France as ‘defenceless as a where tigers roam’.Forests of the night’ could mean the streets of the France and the ‘Burning’ tiger could have been used by Blake to represent a savage, bloodthirsty and ferocious revolution. But the poem is full of evidence that Blake admires, and is fascinated by, the tiger.
He is keen to express its beautiful ‘symmetry’, which could be extended to be seen as Blake complimenting the unity present throughout the French people.This is also puts ‘The Lamb’ into question, if the Tiger was a metaphor for the savage revolution in France, it could suggest that the Lamb represents a much more timid, and passive society that is shepherded, and Blake appears critical of this; the Lamb in the poem was very passive, and was easily dictated to by the narrator when he told the Lamb about God, whereas the Tiger appears much more assertive and much more challenging.Although Blake is in awe of the tiger, and seems to be keen to praise it’s assets, he is also conscious of the power of the tiger and expresses this as uncontrollable, and the impossibility of anyone ‘framing thy fearful symmetry’, so Blake is conscious of the power of the revolution, and presents it as a feral force. ‘The Tiger’ could also be critical of the change in thinking about nature that the Revolutionary thinkers had created.
Revolutionary thinking centered upon ideas of rationality and science, and a desire for the ability to understand the world, but in the poem ‘The Tiger’ Blake presents nature as wild and powerful, certainly not the tame, rational force that some thinkers believed it was. This poem could be have been by Blake as a warning to revolutionary thinkers who believed that they understood nature and the world around them, and by contrasting the tiger and the lamb, Blake may be highlighting the difference between the forms nature takes, and questioning whether someone could understand such a force.The Tiger’ has a very fast almost pounding feel to it, Blake writes in short stanzas with simple rhythmic rhyme schemes which could have been used to represent the pounding of the anvil by the creator, or the pounding ‘sinews of thy heart’, whereas ‘The Lamb’ had a much more soft and docile feel to it, with the repetition of questions; giving the poem a much more docile and patient feel and a less rapid rhyme scheme, rhyming words such as ‘delight’ and ‘bright’.The panicky rapid structure in ‘the Tiger’ fits in with the political stance on the poem, reflecting both the pace at which the revolutionary and often subversive ideas were spreading, but also as Blake’s attempt to Blake’s responses in both poems, make it hard to divide the poems using a simple ‘Innocence/Experience’ template in conclusion although both poems may appear intellectually modest, and feature simple descriptions, Blake has been able to make his opinions on issues such as religion and politics accessible to the reader.
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