Weekly poem: The Tyger

a sunny summer evening of a hill with some houses and the ocean in the background, the words "WEEKLY POEM" are in the centre of the image in all caps

by William Blake

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

In what distant deeps or skies. 
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp, 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp! 

When the stars threw down their spears 
And water’d heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

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

This is one of William Blake’s most well-known poems, belonging to his collection of poems Songs of Innocence and Experience. To hear a reading of this poem, you can go to this post on The Poetry Foundation’s website.

I picked this poem because despite of the (relative) simplicity of the language and the structure, there are more complex themes at play. The speaker wonders about the dichotomy that a creature like the tiger represents: it is a destructive being but at the same time it embodies awe-inspiring beauty. The repeated questions – which the poem does not answer – really underline the speaker’s wonder about what kind of creator would dare forge such a creature. Could it be that this creator is the same one who made something as pure and innocent as the lamb?

On a less serious note, I actually came across Blake’s poem for the first time in years thanks to a tweet of a meme comparing The Tyger’s first lines to a brief poem about a tiger written by a six-year-old boy. Similar to Blake’s poem, the child’s poem evokes very strong feelings despite its simplicity and the meme accurately represents my reaction when I first read it.