The two poems work together to explore the paradox or seeming contradiction of a God who could form both the gentle lamb and the fearsome tiger. "The Lamb" was first published as part of a volume called Songs of Innocence. Later, Blake published these poems with another set of poems, including "The Tyger," and called this volume Songs of Innocence and Experience. The different poems—of innocence and experience—represent the two sides of the human soul. It's easy to emphasize one side of the human soul at the expense of the other, but Blake holds the two sides in tension. The Songs of Innocence represent the human soul in its childlike innocence before humankind was banished from paradise, and the Songs of Experience examine the more fearful world that emerged after the fall from grace.
The lamb symbolizes innocence. The lamb is "tender," "meek," and "mild," a representative of Jesus, the lamb of God. "The Lamb" reads as a child's lullaby and several times repeats the line:
Little Lamb God bless thee.
"The Tyger," however, shows the lamb's gentleness is not the end of the story. The same hand that fashioned lambs also created the fearsome, predatory tiger. "The Tyger" both celebrates the beauty of the tiger and questions how God could have made it—and what he was thinking as he did. Blake asks several times, in slightly different ways:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
He directly contrasts the tiger to the lamb:
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
The tiger symbolizes the violence, dread (Blake uses the word "dread" several times), and terror of the world, and also the ways this can be beautiful and alluring, like the tiger. We ponder what it means to live in a world that contains both the innocent and the predatory.