Compare and Contrast William Blake's Poems

Modified: 29th Jul 2021
Wordcount: 1255 words

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Compare and contrast William Blake’s poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” and show how within their similarities, differences can be found. Then discuss how these two poems exemplify the “two contrary states of the soul” that the Romantics sought to explore.

Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

Gave thee life & bid thee feed.

By the stream & o’er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,

Softest clothing wooly bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice!

Little Lamb who made thee

Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb:

He is meek & he is mild,

He became a little child:

I a child & thou a lamb,

We are called by his name.

Little Lamb God bless thee.

Little Lamb God bless thee.

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?

Who created good and evil? Why would the same hands that created the good also create evil? These are probably questions that us, human beings have been asking ourselves sometimes in our lives but do not have answers to. William Blake, in his two poems “The Lamb” and “The Tiger” addresses these questions. They give a view on religion that shows innocence and saintliness, as well as the frightening and inexplicable.

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These poems both ask a question about the creator. In the Lamb, the creator question is answered. The child knows that the one who created him is the same being that created the Lamb, in lines 17 and 18, Blake writes: “I a child & thou a lamb;/ We are called by his name”. The child though does not mention God until in lines 19 and 20 when he says: “Little Lamb God bless thee. /Little Lamb God bless thee.” “The Lamb” directly tells us that the child knows the creator to be God, while in “The Tyger” the creator question is not answered; it is left hanging for the reader to figure it out. The author asks if the same mighty hand that created the sweet and innocent lamb could be the same hand that created the fearful and dreadful tiger. This is shown in the fifth stanza when Blake says, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” Though these poems are similar in that they ask the creator question, they are different in the way that the question is asked. In “The Tyger”, Blake presents his question in Lines 3 and 4 in a more arrogant way, “What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”, while in the Lamb, the question is “Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee” (lines 9 & 10).

The poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” both use animals in addressing the creator question. The difference is that the Lamb is considered meek and mild, showing that it is a harmless animal “Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee ” (lines 15 & 16), while the Tyger is considered to be fearful and dreadful “Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” (1st stanza).

These poems also have a sense of awe about them. The sense of awe in “The Lamb” is more of a childish wonder and innocence, while in “The Tyger” it is more of an adult and an experienced being. Blake’s use of “happy”‘ words in “The Lamb,” words like “delight,” “bright,” and “rejoice” (1st stanza) show the association with innocence. In “The Tyger,” words like “burning,” “burnt” show harm, dreadful, and fearful nature.

The two poems have an allusion. The Lamb symbolizes Christianity, and it being an innocent animal, resembles Jesus, who in the New Testament was innocent and was crucified for our sins. In “The Lamb” there is an allusion to biblical text, suggesting that the Lamb’s creator is God. In lines 3,4, & 5, “Gave thee life, and bid thee feed/ By the stream and o’re the mead/ Gave thee clothing…” resembles Psalms 23 and shows that the Lamb was created by a loving God who created everything else. In the Tyger, there is a paradise lost allusion. Blake includes Satan as likely being involved in the creation of the Tyger when in Lines 5 and 6 he says: “In what distant deeps or skies/Burnt the fire of thy eyes?”. “Deeps” in this sentence signifies “hell” while “skies” signify “heaven”, showing that the creator of the Tyger could be residing in one of the two places.

The author also uses imagery from nature, and shows the difference in the living places for the two animals. The Tyger was said to be living in a forest of the night which is more violent, fiery, and predatory., “Tyger Tyger, burning bright,/In the forests of the night” (lines 1 & 2), whereas the Lamb lives by the stream, a more peaceful place, green, and nurturing “Gave thee life & bid thee feed/By the stream & o’er the mead” (lines 3 & 4).

These poems, however address the “two contrary states of the soul”: innocence and experience which reflect good and evil respectively. The Romantics sought to explore the soul, its contrary states, connection to nature and the imaginative and innovative powers which would change the face of literature. Blake, in response to the rationalism of the Romantics, has chosen to exemplify these two states in relation to nature by choosing two contradicting animals: Lamb and Tiger. Lamb is known to be a peaceful animal while a Tiger is a dangerous animal. In “The Lamb” the innocence which became so important in the Romantic period is obvious. The author asks the questions, and then speaks like a child in answering them to take the reader to a higher level of truth. He points out “features” which a lamb would have–“clothing of delight, tender voice,” etc. In the second, third, and fourth stanzas of “The Tyger”, he lists the remarkable physical features of this amazing creature. He goes on to ask, what would be his answer, if the one who made the lamb made the tyger…what does this contrast offer the reader a chance to reflect on here? The fifth stanza asks what the maker’s reaction was when he saw the “fearful symmetry” of this creature.

In the Tyger, he writes about who would create such an evil animal. In other words, why would the same God that created the good let evil take place on earth? He talks about angels crying. He talks about the hardwork it took to create the Tyger, and how evil it is showing that it was meant to be created the way it is. Who would do that? Waste their time working so hard on something evil?


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