What Is the Imagery Used in Blake's Poem "The Tyger"?
William Blake's lyric poem, "The Tyger," is a meditation on the source and intent of creation. His words create striking images used to question religion and contrast good and evil. Among his most famous poems, "The Tyger" was published in a collection titled, "Songs of Experience" in 1794. Though not well known in his own era, today Blake is an important poet of the Romantic Age.
The imagery of fire evokes the fierceness and potential danger of the tiger, which itself represents what is evil or dreaded. "Tyger Tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night," Blake begins, conjuring the image of a tiger's eyes burning in the darkness. "In what distant deeps or skies. / Burnt the fire of thine eyes?" he continues, before asking, "What the hand, dare seize the fire? ... In what furnace was thy brain?" Here, the image of a hand brings forth subsequent imagery of a creator. Someone or something is forging the tiger into existence.
Blake uses imagery to question what kind of being could create anything as fierce as a tiger. "What immortal hand or eye, / Could frame thy fearful symmetry? ... On what wings dare he aspire?" Blake creates an image of an otherworldly, supernatural being. "And what shoulder, & what art, / Could twist the sinews of thy heart? ... What dread hand? & what dread feet? ... what dread grasp, / Dare its deadly terrors clasp!" These words conjure a being with terrible strength, one that might also harbor malicious intent. Blake uses images here to ask whether evil or good lies behind the creation of the fearsome tiger.
Blake uses Christian imagery to question whether a beneficent God would create the tiger and, thus, other potential horrors in the world. "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?" Blake's images evoke the celestial sphere where the Christian creation began; the universe comes to life, and the hand of God creates the lamb -- a symbol of Christian sacrifice. Using this image, he asks whether this same hand could create the innocent lamb and the menacing the tiger.
Blake sets his poem in nature, using images of the forest and the sky. "Tyger Tyger, burning bright, / In the forests of the night" evokes the image of glowing eyes that pierce the night, a time when fears arise out of the darkness. He then places the tiger's burning eyes in "distant deeps or skies." Blake also uses imagery that evokes the heavens, writing of the tiger's potential creation, "When the stars threw down their spears / And water'd heaven with their tears: / Did he smile his work to see?"
Karen Clark has been writing professionally since 2001. Her work includes articles on gardening, education and literature. Clark has also published short literary fiction in the "Southern Humanities Review" and has co-authored a novel. Her professional experience includes teaching and tutoring students of all ages in literature, history and writing. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts in political science and a Master of Fine Arts in writing.