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Blake's poem The Tyger begins with the amazement of a vision, an apocalyptic beast 'burning bright' in the bordering darkness: nocturnal darkness presented metaphorically as 'forests of the night'. Obviously, this is no familiar tiger in the natural habitat of forests; this is a visionary tiger as burning fire in the darkness as an absolute principle. The vision leads the poet to an assumption of the mystery of its maker, for the maker is best understood in terms of the thing made:
"What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
Blake's tiger symbolises 'Experience', as the lamb in his other poem symbolises 'Innocence'. The animal juxtaposes the opposites as the oxymoronical phrase 'fearful symmetry' suggests. Who could be the maker of such a ferocious but beautiful beast? The poet refers to his 'immortal hand or eye', that is to say, an immortal maker.
The question relating to the maker now gives rise to many more questions in stanza 2: wherefrom the maker procures the fire--from the depths of the underworld, or from the heights of the skies? In either case, the maker must have had wings to delve into the 'distant deeps', or to soar high up to heaven. The maker must be a daring aspirant who has 'the hand' to 'seize the fire', may be, like Icarus or Prometheus in Greek mythology.
Stanza 3 again posits questions relating to the creature and its creator. Since the huge beast has had a big and bold heart made up of strong muscles, its creator must also be strong-shouldered, and must have known the art of making the strange animal. The poet further apprehends how life was put into the tiger's heart set it to motion:
"And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?"
With a new set of questions, stanza 4 further dwells on the making of the tiger as something stupendous, built in the workshop of a legendary blacksmith:
"What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?"
Stanza 5 shows an attempt on the part of the poet to locate the making of the tiger in cosmic time and space. Blake imagines that the tiger was made at a moment of crisis when the rebel angels in heaven surrendered their weapons before God as God applied thunderbolt. The stars extinguishing their lights symbolise the thunder-struck angels shedding tears:
"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?"
The pair of questions in the closing lines of stanza 5 seems to have challenged the idea of a benign creator. The maker of the lamb is Himself 'the Lamb of God', meek and mild, representing the 'forgiveness of sins'. But how can such a maker create the terrible tiger? The maker of the fierce & fiery beast must be the other self of God, wrathful & cruel, representing 'the punishment of sins'
Stanza 6 is almost identical with the opening stanza, with the exception of 'dare' in the beginning of the last line. The change from 'could' to 'dare' suggests the completion of the making of the tiger.
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