The Tiger - William Blake

poetry analysis

In William Blake's "The Tiger" the speaker seems to ask the tiger and his creator rhetorical questions that are not answered. The theme of wonder in the creation of the world is expressed through several different poetic techniques.

The poem is based on a simple rhyme scheme, each stanza has an a-a-b- b rhyme and every stanza except the first and the last have a different rhyming sound. The meter itself is also very unified throughout the poem, the majority of which is trochaic tri-meter with an occasional slip into trochaic tetrameter on the last line of a few of the stanzas for emphasis. The tone of the poem is quizzical but fearful. Blake's diction in the poem is varied, but well placed. The opening "Tiger, tiger, burning bright," clearly shows a good use of repetition. It also uses alliteration to put a strong emphasis on "burning bright," in order to paint a picture of a fiery colored tiger. The poem also contains an allusion to Greek mythology in the second stanza. "On what wings dare he aspire? What hand dare seize the fire?" This couplet is clearly an illusion to the story of Icarus building wings of wax and of Prometheus giving man fire. The majority of the poem is apostrophes of the speaker asking the tiger about himself and his creator. In fact, the entire poem is questions posed to the personified tiger.

All of the poetic tools used in the poem contribute to its theme of wonder in the creation of the world. The rhyme scheme, meter, and tone create a rhythmic feeling to the poem, creating the feeling of the hammering of a workshop, the hammering on "the anvil" that is creating the tiger. The sound of the tiger being created raises the question though aural imagery of how the world was created. Did a God forge the world in his workshop? The tone is questioning and fearful; the speaker seems to have fear of the tiger but is in awe of its perfection. The allusion to the stories from Greek mythology also creates an image of the Gods. Both of the stories involve the betrayal of the Gods. Icarus defied the Gods by creating wings and flying, while Prometheus gave fire to humans in the process of creating them, which also defied the will of the gods. The story of Prometheus focuses on creation and fire, both are strong symbols in the poem. Icarus defied the Gods, much like the perfection of the tiger does. The poem asks deliberately if "He who made the lamb" made the tiger. This shows that "he" is a god and that he created all, or that is what the speaker believes and wants to be confirmed. The speaker wonders who, besides God, would be able to create a perfect animal like the tiger or his opposite, the lamb. This wonder is the theme of the poem.

"The Tiger" uses simple poetic processes to express the theme of wonder about the creation of the universe. The poetic devices raise questions, bring focus, and create pictures in the audiences' minds. Blake uses clear technique in order to accent key parts of the poem and create mental and auditory interpretations of the poem as it is being presented. Noticeably the poetic language that he uses illustrates the theme of wonder about the creation of the world.

1 comment

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

The Tiger is a great poem...and this is a great commentary on it. The secret to its success I think is in that "poetic simplicity". The same effect can be felt with Blake's "The Sick Rose", which I'm convinced would have to be about as perfect a poem as you can get.

Cheers

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