Compare and contrast William Blake's poems "The Lamb"  and "The Tyger."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blake's poem, "The Lamb", represents a spiritual exploration of innocence and purity.  The description of the lamb indicates as much with imagery that reflects a sense of softness and child-like authenticity.  The first word of "little" helps to create this mood throughout the poem with ideas such as "softest clothing woolly  bright," "tender voice," "vales rejoicing" (symbolizing a universality regaling in the lamb's song of innocence and purity), and the description of the lamb being "meek and mild."  With the shared rejoicing of the speaker in the closing lines, the poem illuminates the innocent and pure condition of the lamb, of goodness and unity in the world.

The countervailing force to this is the poem of "The Tyger."  Blake continues the theme of perfect creation, although in this setting, it is a representation of the force of death, an "anti- lamb" expression of being in the world.  Blake does not judge the tyger as a force that has to be obliterated, but rather is using the subject to explore the presence of evil in the world.  Whereas the lamb is a song of innocence, the tyger is a song of experience, the opposing force to the lamb.  Blake's description of the tyger is one fraught with the expression of this opposing force.  The "fearful symmetry" reflects a much different impression than that of the lamb.  The questioning of how one who created the lamb could "seize the fire" that gave birth to the tyger is brought out with the "twisting of the sinews of thy heart" as well as the "dread hand" and "dread feet."  This force is not one to be derided or dismissed, for it is present in the world:  "Did he who made the lamb make thee?"  The question that Blake seems to be posing with both poems is how the presence of innocence and unity can be countered with the presence of destruction and fragmentation.  Blake is exploring how the life force that is praised and exalted in the lamb can be challenged by the powers of the tyger.  Blake poises the condition of humanity somewhere in between both of these competing notions of the good.