In Songs of Innocence and Experience, examine Blake's twin poems 'The Tiger' & 'The Lamb' as 'two aspects of God and two states of man.'

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The series of poems that seemingly oppose each other or at least discuss big questions in different ways that characterise this excellent collection of poems serve to present the two states of innocence and experience in their full glory. The state of innocence is implied throughout "The Lamb" as being one that is characterised by a child-like trust in God and the divine, emphasised by the simple rhyme and rhythm that the poem adopts. It is key to note that in this poem, the question of who created the lamb is one that is answered explicitly and clearly:

He is called by thy name,

For He calls himself a Lamb.

He is meek, and he is mild;

He became a little child.

Notice how the speaker explicitly identifies both himself and the lamb he addresses with the figure of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of the Passover, showing how they symbolise their creator's innocence and purity.

However, the key difference between "The Tiger" and "The Lamb" is the way in which "The Tiger," throughout the poem, asks the question of who could have designed and made such a powerful and frightening figure. Crucially, this question is never answered, which is important because the speaker of the poem is struggling to understand how the creator of the lamb could also have made the tiger:

When the stars threw down their spears,

And watered heaven with their tears,

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Can the tiger, a fearsome creature of the night, a ruthless predator, have the same source as the cute fluffy little lamb, which is taken as a symbol of innocence?

Thus it is that these two poems approach big questions regarding the dual nature of God. On the one hand, God is characterised by benevolence and goodness, as shown through his creation of the lamb. However, much more disturbingly, God is also the creator of the tiger, a ruthless killer and a dangerous predator. Can God be the source of both good and evil, and why does God allow evil if he is good?

Secondly, note the way that these two poems can also be applied to the dual nature of humanity, characterised by innocence and experience. The speaker in "The Lamb" is an innocent child, whereas the speaker in "The Tiger" is an adult with full awareness of the complexity of the world and the big questions that have no easy answers. The first speaker represents the state of innocence where we are able to accept simple answers; the second sees that when we reach a stage of experience there are no answers to such complex questions.

gcarden498 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blake's two poems are meditations on the dualistic nature of God. By contrasting the violent and destructive energy of the tiger with the passive, gentle nature of the lamb, Blake presents what appears to be irreconcilable opposing qualities that are present in the universe.  In these two poems, Blake is defining the nature of a God which can embody both the terrible strength and beauty of the tiger and the submissive, peaceful nature of the lamb.

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Songs of Innocence and of Experience

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