7. The Tyger: William Blake 1794

Section
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
Chapter
1.9 Poems
Page
1.9.7

As with Ansell Adams’ wonderful landscape photographs (see 1.8.5 ‘Photographs’), The Tyger is so famous and so much has been written about it that one is tempted not to include it, but to do so would be to miss out on its unique contribution.

The first emotion is one of fear. The language is of Frankenstein: “dread”, “fearful”, “deadly”, “fire”, and “terrors”. But instead of saying this just is, as per Hughes, Blake dares to ask what force(s) is/are shaping the world? Are they friendly? Frightening? Singular or plural? In unison or at odds? Who could do this? Who would dare ‘make’ a tiger?

The creation, its “fearful symmetry”, is awe-inspiringly terrifying, and such might could come only from the distant universe: “In what distant deeps or skies”. This seems at first take to be every bit as cold and unreachable as Hughes’ Hawk, so why do I find it not as chilling, not as alienating? I am not sure of the answer, but perhaps it is because Blake – at least partially – identifies and personalises a creator, whereas Hughes stops at the process: “Creation”. Blake speaks of “On what wings dare he aspire?” and “Did he smile his work to see?”. Does the illustration, too, unintentionally, reduce the empty distance of Hughes’ creation? Blake has rounded the Tiger’s form and although far from cuddly soft-toy, there is something humanised in the illustration that doesn’t quite match the staring, soul-less eye.

Ultimately, though, any comfort that may be gained by Nature being created by a creator is challenged by Tyger’s message that this creator is perhaps unknowable, that “his” forge is one of fire and stars, and his creatures complex, contradictory, and exacting. It is indeed a world of both lambs and tigers.

 

1 Blake, W. 1794. Songs of Experience. http://www.rarebookroom.org/Control/blkin1/index.html

Explore More Poems

1.9.1. Snake

A snake came to my water-trough On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat, To drink there. In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree I came down the steps with my pitcher And must wait, must stand and wait, for ...

1.9.2. Essay

Carruth, like Lawrence’s ‘Snake’, says: “My poems, I think, exist in a state of tension between the love of natural beauty and the fear of natural nothingness or absurdity”1, but there is almost none of this tension in his poem, ‘Essay’...

1.9.3. Endymion

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. Therefore, on every morrow, are w...

1.9.4. The Smoker Parrots

The reefs have run out and the little Dim villages sit out in the cold; But up in the north-west the Smokers Have taken the gold. It is a dry land, and any Good morning is spring in the air. The Smokers come out of the sunlight, And leave...

1.9.5. Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things – For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; And ...

1.9.6. Hawk Roosting

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed. Inaction, no falsifying dream Between my hooked head and hooked feet: Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat. The convenience of the high trees! The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray Are of ...

1.9.7. The Tyger

As with Ansell Adams’ wonderful landscape photographs (see 1.8.5 ‘Photographs’), The Tyger is so famous and so much has been written about it that one is tempted not to include it, but to do so would be to miss out on its unique contribution. T...

1.9.8. The Windhover

To Christ our Lord I caught this morning morning's minion, king- dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpl...

1.9.9. The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls.   ‘The Eag...

1.9.10. The Death of the Bird

For every bird there is this last migration; Once more the cooling year kindles her heart; With a warm passage to the summer station Love pricks the course in lights across the chart. Year after year a speck on the map, divided By a whole h...

Explore Other Sections

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
1/11

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship

This section is designed to foster appreciation and insight that will – hopefully – lead to novel ways to build a better relationship between human beings and Nature. This section is also atypical ...
2. Reduce Consumption
2. Reduce Consumption

2. Reduce Consumption

I hope Reneé Descartes would forgive us for saying that, at least for the modern world, he was wrong.  When, in 1637, he said: “I think, therefore I am”, he could not have anticipated that the majo...
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

In a supposedly secular age there has arisen a global religion and god like never before, a religion whose reach and power makes every other belief system before it seem pitiful and insignificant: ...
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

What we do in our day-to-day lives can have great impact. Section Four divides up these actions into three groups – Work (4.2 & 4.3), Volunteering (4.4), and Action, e.g. voting, protesting, et...
5. Reduce Population
5. Reduce Population

5. Reduce Population

Even on top of Mt. Everest, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overp...
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

The media is one of the three, great ‘poles’ of power in the world (alongside political and corporate power) and how they frame and present ‘the environment’ has a profound effect on how we respond...
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be...
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

Our current energy largesse is an extraordinary ‘gift’, an unprecedented gift of the ages; millions of years to produce and from millions of years ago. Coal, oil and gas, forming...
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

Just as with the previous section – ‘Energy’ – which is, inescapably, all about fossil fuels so pre-eminent and extraordinary has been their dominance and transformation of the world in the last 20...
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

Section 10 will attempt to organise this enormous topic by addressing the context and status of pollution in 10.2, before focussing in on air pollution; particularly greenhouse gas pollution and cl...