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William Blake’s “The Tyger” and “The Lamb”

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    In most cases, poems written by the same author often display similar themes. The author usually focuses on one particular topic or idea and strongly states it in his writings. Sometimes, poets use aspects of their own lives as a basis for their poetry. In William Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger”, the author utilizes similar themes in both.

    Blake’s poems often dealt with religious topics. “He was a libertarian obsessed with God…a Christian who hated the church.” (Kazin, p.3) In Blake’s “The Lamb”, he discusses many points that question creation and religion. To Blake, the lamb represents innocence and fragility. His description of the lamb states “Gave thee clothing of Delight – Softest clothing, wooly, bright; – Gave thee such a tender voice”. (Knopf, p.19) “Blake develops an elaborate personal mythology that underlies virtually all symbolism and ideas in his work” (Shilstone, p.223) Blake wrote this poem as though he was speaking directly to the lamb. He asks it, “Dost thou know who made thee? – I a child & thou a lamb, –We are called by his name” (Knopf, p.19) At the time it was written, these lines probably held little or no significance. However, today, we see that Blake’s phrasing brought much religious significance to the poem. If you recall, Baby Jesus is referred to as “The Lamb of God”.

    With that in mind, what Blake says can be interpreted in various ways. As stated before, “He was a libertarian obsessed with God…a Christian who hated the church.” (Kazin, p.3) Yet Blake refers to the entity that created the lamb as the entity that by which he himself was created. What was Blake trying to say here? Did he feel that his being and life were just as symbolic of that of the “lamb” or Baby Jesus’ life? Or did he think that he would be recognized as a prophet of the lord in a future reference of religion? A distinction is hard to make, however present day writings tend to agree with the second alternative. “In his prophetic books, William Blake is a visionary who can be compared without blasphemy to the prophets of the Old Testament”. (Knopf, Inner Jacket) The entire poem “The Lamb” seems to be one general question of “how”.

    Another poem written by Blake entitled “The Tyger”, portrays the tiger as a symbol of evil. This can be seen when Blake writes, “What the anvil, what dread grasp- Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”(Gioa / Kennedy, p.817) By repeating the word “dread” through out the poem, the author emphasizes the evil that consumes the tiger. As in “The Lamb”, Blake ties the tiger to creation and again questions it as an entity. “Did he who make the lamb, make thee?…What immortal hand or eye – Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” (Gioa / Kennedy, p.817) Although it deals with a similar theme, “The Tyger” doesn’t question “how” it was created, but rather “why” it was created. “When the stars threw down their spears, – And watered the heaven with their tears, – Did he smile his work to see? – Did he who make the lamb make thee?” (Gioa / Kennedy, p.817) Together, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” focus on the importance of knowing evil (the tiger) is always present, even though it is not always seen. This fable like moral is incorporated in hope of attaining a state of innocence (the lamb). The lamb is a symbol of innocence, the tiger, a symbol of evil. If the lamb is not aware that the tiger is near, it will be devoured; implying the loss of innocence. However, innocence will survive if the lamb exhibits some degree of self – awareness. As you can see, a single theme is continuously shared between the two poems.That being the fact that Blake questions several times how each animal was created. In “The Lamb”, Blake infers that a God – like creature, created the lamb. In “The Tyger”, he questions if the entity that made the lamb also created the tiger. Because the tiger is evil, Blake leans towards a darker, more dreadful figure. Based on examples given, it can be seen that the theme of curiosity and creation exists in two separate works written by William Blake.

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