How do the sound effects in William Blake's poem "The Tyger" help to contribute to the theme of the poem?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Blake wrote “The Tyger” 1794 and published it in a book of poetry Songs of Experience. The language of the poem makes the it easy to read; however, the poem is steeped in rhetorical questions that are asked but not answered.

The poem has both a literal and figurative interpretation. Summary The poem consists of six quatrains. The poet began and ended his poem with the same stanza except for changing one word—could to dare.

There is really no story to the poem. There are thirteen questions that are asked within the poem which speak to the tiger. Each stanza focuses on a different aspect of the question presented in the first stanza. With the use of apostrophes, the poem directly addresses an unseen force [God] that shaped the world.

The tiger seems to be symbolic of evil to the poet.

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

What are the questions ask in each stanza?

1st stanza

What magnificent hand made you, Tiger?

2nd stanza

Where were you made?

3rd stanza

How were you made?

4th stanza

What devices were used to create you?

5th stanza

What was the reaction of the deity that made you? Is the God who made the tiger the same one that made the lamb?

6th stanza [a repetition of the first question with a stronger inference]

Why would this deity risk making something like you, Tiger?

Blake questions the God who would create a world that has both evil and good [lamb]. He further wonders why would he do this, and what is the purpose of the evil in the world. Is God happy that he created such a fiery, terrifying creature?\

 Poetic devices

Through the use of poetic devices, Blake adds to the meaning of his poem. The sound effects of the poem add to the its rhythm and emphasize the question of good versus evil as the theme of the poem.

In the stanzas, the poem uses two couplets per verse. The rhyme scheme in each of the verses is AABB. This embellishes the idea that there are two opposing ideas in the poem: evil and good.

When read aloud, the poem sounds like a chant. The alliteration adds to this rhythmic beat. The auditory aspect of the poem is enhanced by the repetition of the consonant sounds:

Burning bright; frame thy fearful; distant deeps; began to beat; what dread grasp/Dare its deadly; and stars, spears

He further uses the effect of repetition to add to the chant-like quality of the poem.

Tiger, tiger; what the hand; what immortal hand; what dread hand; The poem’s visual images create pictures in the mind: The tiger burning brightly.

  • During the creation, the hand of God looked down and formed this beautiful but fearful creature.
  • The creator gained the eyes for the tiger from the sky or possibly the stars.
  • What kind of creator would form the tiger’s muscles, paws, and feet and for what purpose?
  • Blake makes the reader compare the gentle lamb to the fearsome tiger with its beauty but ferocious spirit.

The poet is in awe of the symmetrical, dangerous creature. In his awe of the creator, Blake wonders why he would create both good and evil in the world. The poem has no answers to the questions that he asks, just the implication of wonder at the choices that the deity made.

sea-treasure | Student

The poem is written in trochaic tetrameter with catalexis at the end of each line. Thus, every line has seven syllables. The stressed syllable at the end of each line gives a strong voice, and this strong voice is suitable to the picture of the tiger and its mighty power that Blake introduces us in his poem.