It is an innate characteristic of humans to wonder about the origins of humanity and the nature of creation. Culture frequently relies on religious beliefs to speculate these issues, often using stories to describe the earliest humans. William Blake wrote a collection of poems titled Song of Innocence and Experience showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul to juxtapose the idyllic innocence of youth and dark corruption of adulthood. Blake uses simple and traditional literary techniques in "The Lamb" but develops to more advanced and ambiguous literary techniques in "The Tyger." Thus, when the speaker in "The Lamb" asks "Who made thee" (1), they do so with a naive and youthful tone, but when the speaker in "The Tyger" poses the same question, they use a more critical and knowledgeable voice mirroring Blake's evolution from Songs of Innocence to Songs of Experience. This shift signifies his own perspective on the origin of creation as he begins as a blindly faithful believer in God, but with experience he begins to question God's benevolent intentions.
The speakers in each poem represent Blake's perspective on God and his creations at different degrees of experience. The speaker in "the Lamb" is a young child talking to a lamb about their creator. This image of a child talking and singing to an animal is one of peaceful innocence and playfulness. "The Lamb" is categorized in the collection of Blake's poems called Songs of Innocence and this innocent tone is abundantly clear throughout the poem. The speaker is curiously asking the lamb "Dost thou know who made thee" (2) but it is clear by the second stanza that the child already knows the answer and was simply playing with the lamb. This speaker is representative of Blake's early and innocent perspective of God, one full of faith and curiosity. This dramatically shifts in "the Tyger" as the speaker shifts into a seemingly all-knowing observer with a developed perspective. This speaker is perceptive and challenges the sincerity of God by his creation of the dreaded tyger. This state of omniscience parallels the title of the collection of poems in which "the Tyger" is presented: Songs of Experience. This speaker represents Blake's perspective on God and creation after experiencing the evil and the immorality in the world.
Blake strategically uses repetition to reinforce the speakers' dissenting tones. The repetition of the first and last couplets in the both stanzas in "the Lamb" forms a refrain, mimicking the structure of a chorus. This structure mimics a children's song or a hymn, reinforcing the speaker's innocence with religion. The repetition of line "Little Lamb God bless thee" (19) shows how the speaker is completely faithful to Christian principles, naive to the controversy and violence Christianity also represents. Each instance of repetition strengthens the tone of innocence that the speaker represents. The repetition of the first quatrain in "the Tyger" composes a tone of loathing. The first quatrain of the poem is repeated as the sixth and final quatrain, with the substitution of the word "could" to "dare." This one word substitution definitively establishes the speaker's apprehension with the tyger's creator, God. "What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" (23-24) is an accusatory statement, transforming the speaker from inquisitive to wary. The repetition of the word "dare" also speculates God's motives in creating the tyger. Repetition in both poems emphasize the opposing feelings of each speaker, showcasing the evolution of standpoint in Blake's relationship with God.
Furthermore, each poem utilizes a regular form and rhythmic meter to highlight the differences in urgency between each poem, depicting God as gentle and meek in "The Lamb" and a deliberate blacksmith in "The Tyger." "The Lamb" consists of two stanzas, five couplets each, written mostly in seven syllable trochees. The simplicity of each rhyme and structure mirrors the child's easy and leisurely nature. Blake uses soft vowels and floating Is to slow the reader down and establish the lack of urgency. The only break in rhyme occurs twice, where Blake uses a slant rhyme with "lamb" and "name" in lines 13-14 and 17-18. This slant rhyme causes the reader to stumble, because the first slant rhyme uses the order "name" then "lamb" while the second slant rhyme places "lamb" first and then "name." This switch in slant rhymes symbolizes the first instance of confusion and doubt in the speaker's faith. The first slant rhyme indicates the child's confusion and the following lines consist of sorting out what the child has heard about religion. By the second slant rhyme, the child has regained traction, but the poem ends with the child asking for God's blessing on the lamb and no further fascination with the lamb nor God. "The Tyger" uses a highly ordered structure with six quatrains. Similarly to "the Lamb", the poem uses mostly 7 syllable trochees fashioned into rhyming couplets. This regular, rhythmic, defined structure is reflective of the more developed and reserved speaker. The regular beating meter of the poem also relates to the imagery of a blacksmith Blake creates with words like "hammer", "chain", "furnace", and "anvil" (13-15). The form and rhyme scheme of each poem exposes its speaker's state of mind.
Other symbols Blake uses to represent larger ideas include the lamb and the tyger themselves, and the imagery he uses with these symbols conclusively identifies his evolution in approach to God as our creator. The lamb symbolizes Jesus, which is a very traditional connection in Christianity because Jesus was the good shepherd. Somatic and auditory imagery depict the lamb as a mild and virtuous creature. By choosing words like "softest clothing wooly bright" (6) and "tender voice" (7), Blake is depicting the lamb as angelic and the speaker is clearly captivated by its purity. Moreover, imagery is used to create the entire setting, completely devoid of evil. This pastoral setting represents the world that the child was raised in, one in which Blake used to believe in. This world is shattered by symbols like the tyger. The tyger can represent a multitude of things like corruption, betrayal, or deceit, all things present in the world Blake now sees. However, the imagery used to describe the tyger suggests that it symbolizes something more complicated than pure evil. "Tyger Tyger burning bright" (1) presents the tyger as surely dangerous, but also mysteriously beautiful. This splendor draws the speaker in until they remember the "fearful symmetry" (4) and violence the tyger is capable of. The complexity of the tyger demonstrates the struggle Blake is experiencing with his confidence in God. While he recognizes God is powerful, he despises the way God uses his power to produce creatures like the tyger. Imagery is also used to emphasize that the creation of the tyger was purposeful. By describing God as a blacksmith in the fourth quatrain, the creation of the tyger in inherently intentional, strengthening the speaker's disgust. The speaker's disgust, but ultimate belief in God reflects how Blake himself views God.
Finally, Blake's use of apostrophes in both poems to ultimately express how the speaker in "The Lamb" is earnest and innocent while "The Tyger's" speaker is experienced and accusing God of harmful intentions. The child in "the Lamb" is speaking to a lamb who cannot understand or respond to their questions. So by asking the lamb a question, the child is posing a rhetorical question. This contributes to the faithfulness displayed by the child, as well as implying a direct address to God. It is also not a shocking occurrence to visualize a child speaking to an animal, which makes the use of an apostrophe in "the Tyger" more impactful. In "the Tyger", the speaker is both addressing someone who isn't there, God, and something that cannot be talked to, the tyger. This indicates a sense of loneliness within the speaker. This poem was published in the late 18th century Europe, a time dominated by crippling religious control. The way the speaker is questioning God and disregarding Christian doctrine likely was likely isolating. Although both speakers are confronting animals, it is their differences in experience that distinguishes the impact of using apostrophes.
Blake uses the speakers in both poems to portray his evolved view on the god who created humanity. He details this progression of perspective using imagery of symbols and differing poem structure. His first speaker in "the Lamb" exudes an innocent, blind faithfulness to God, only briefly confused. However, the speaker he uses in "the Tyger" is clearly appalled with God for creating the tyger. This speaker questions God's intentions throughout the poem, as evident with the use of terrifying imagery and repetition of accusatory words and phrases. Fleetingly, it appears that the speaker still has hope that God was not to blame for the tyger when he urges "Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee?" (19-20). This momentary trace of hope, however, is relinquished by the next stanza. The speaker ends the poem disappointed and indignant with God, expressing Blake's new and experienced beliefs. At the end of both poems, it is evident that Blake believes God is not the merciful being he had always learned about.
Blake, William. "The Lamb." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Blake, William. "The Tyger." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Jose, Chiramel Paul. "Skinning "The Lamb" and "The Tyger"." English Language and Literature Studies 5.2 (2015): 87.
Tembong, Denis Fonge. "Blake, Hardy and the Poetics of Mixed Beliefs." Anglisticum Journal 3.5 (2016).
Sinanoglu, Sarper. How does William Blake depict the contradiction between the positive perception of God and the negative perception of religion that is imposed by the Church in his poems,"The Tyger","The Lamb","The Garden of Love" and "The Little Vagabond"?. Diss. TED Ankara Koleji, 2015.
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