Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Summary and Analysis of "The Tyger"


In this counterpart poem to “The Lamb” in Songs of Innocence, Blake offers another view of God through His creation. Whereas the lamb implied God’s tenderness and mercy, the tiger suggests His ferocity and power. The speaker again asks questions of the subject: “What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” The questions continue throughout the poem, with the answers implied in the final question that is not a repetition of an earlier question: “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” The same God who made the gentle, obedient lamb also made the frightening, powerful, and bloody-minded tiger, and whereas the lamb was simply “made,” the tiger is forged: “What the hammer? what the chain?/ In what furnace was thy brain?”


The use of smithing imagery for the creation of the tiger hearkens to Blake’s own oft-written contrast between the natural world and the industrialism of the London of his day. While the creator is still God, the means of creation for so dangerous a creature is mechanical rather than natural. Technology may be a benefit to mankind in many ways, but within it still holds deadly potential.

In form and content, "The Tyger" also parallels the Biblical book of Job. Job, too, was confronted by the sheer awe and power of God, who asks the suffering man a similar series of rhetorical questions designed to lead Job not to an answer, but to an understanding of the limitations inherent in human wisdom. This limitation is forced into view by the final paradox: "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Can the God of Innocence also be the God of Experience? If so, how can mere mortals, trapped in one state or the other, ever hope to understand this God?

"The Tyger" follows an AABB rhyme scheme throughout, but with the somewhat problematic first and last stanzas rhyming "eye" with "symmetry." This jarring near rhyme puts the reader in an uneasy spot from the beginning and returns him to it at the end, thus foreshadowing and concluding the experience of reading "The Tyger" as one of discomfort.