On first reading William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger,” it appears to be a simple poem about the giant cat, the tiger. The first clue that this poem is about more than just a tiger is that it is full of questions. “What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” asks Blake at both the beginning and the end of the poem (3-4, 23-24). The tiger, as Blake describes it, is full of “fire,” has “dread feet,” and a “dread grasp” (6, 8, 12, 15). It is a fearsome animal.
The most important questions in the poem are, “Did he smile his work to see?” and “Did he who make the Lamb make thee?” (19-20). In order to understand what Blake is trying to say with his poem “The Tyger,” it was useful to read another of his poems, “The Lamb.” In “The Lamb,” Blake describes the literal creature as something of “delight” and being “meek” and “mild” (5, 15). The lamb is not only a serene, peaceful, and calm animal of the earth, but Blake also writes, “For he calls himself a Lamb:” by which he refers to Jesus (14).
When the Lamb is mentioned in “The Tyger,” it is to create a symbolic contrast between the two creatures. While the lamb is a peaceful, beautiful creature, the tiger is depicted as something very different. The tiger is a creature of fire and night, darkness and fear. Blake seems to be using the tiger as a symbol of all on this earth that is also fearsome and dangerous. When Blake asks, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” he, is not just asking about a big cat, but also asking a more philosophical question (20). He is asking if God the creator of all on earth, God who created the beautiful, peaceful Lamb, also created all that is as fierce and dangerous as the tiger. Tools are mentioned, when Blake writes, “What the hammer? What the chain?/ In what furnace was thy brain?/ What the anvil?” which gives a vision of a blacksmith’s place where things are created in fire. Blake does not make any direction mention of Hell, so the question is never directly asked if fearsome creations like the tiger and all it represents could possibly be from some source other than God the creator. The symbol I am not quite sure about is in the fifth verse, when Blake writes, “When the stars threw down their spears/ And watered heaven with their tears,” because I am not sure what Blake is trying to say (17-18). However, overall the poem appears to be a very thoughtful one about how it is that fearsome, dangerous things inhabit the earth.
The poem, “Dancing With God,” uses symbols to paint a vivid picture about life. In this case, the poet uses some familiar images such as a dance floor, a thunderstorm, a peaceful forest, and a beach to show how life is like a dance with God. There is no real dance floor in this poem, and there is no literal dance. This poem reminded me of something, a few days ago when I approached a TV screen from a distance I could see two figures moving but could not tell what they were doing; I wondered if they were dancing or fighting. As I approached I could see they were fighting, but in a way it looked like a dance. If the poet had used images of people’s activities, the poet could have used an image like that, but the poet uses images of nature instead. In order to understand more about this poem, I imagined what it would be like to be caught up in a scene like this if the dance partner, God, was not in the poem. It would be very confusing, because God is obviously the leader of the dance partners, a guide through life. The poet moves smoothly from one scene to another because the poet’s hand is held by God while moving through the dance of life. The lines, “I look at Him knowing this is what I'm living for./ This beauty of nature from Him I receive,” show that by letting God lead the way through the dance of life, it makes life worthwhile and something the poet can better appreciate (23-24).
Blake, William. “The Lamb.”
Blake, William. “The Tyger.”
“Dancing With God.”