The last stanza of the "The Tyger" is almost identical to the first. What is the significance of the one word changed in the last stanza?

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In 1789, William Blake published a collection called Songs of Innocence. The poems within were mainly happy, innocent, and pastoral. In 1794, Blake added a second section and called the book Songs of Innocence and Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul . His poems...

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In 1789, William Blake published a collection called Songs of Innocence. The poems within were mainly happy, innocent, and pastoral. In 1794, Blake added a second section and called the book Songs of Innocence and Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. His poems "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" are at opposite ends of the spectrum in Blake's spiritual universe. One is the epitome of peaceful gentleness, and the other of violent rage. Blake juxtaposes these opposites in "The Tyger" with an emphasis on the awesome savagery of the carnivorous tiger.

Although Blake was not a fan of the traditional religious establishment, he was deeply spiritual. His unique spirituality went all the way back to his childhood, when he reported seeing visions of God peering in a window and of angels cavorting about in the branches of a tree. The idea of a universal creator is evident in "The Tyger," in which the questions the poet asks have to do with the creation of the fearsome tiger.

It is obvious that Blake admires the terrifying tiger and sees it as a wondrous creature imbued with strength and magnificence. He envisions the creator of the tiger as a sort of cosmic blacksmith using hammer, chain, furnace, and anvil to bring this amazing creature to life. Blake wonders if when the tiger was fully formed the creator smiled at his work or perhaps found it dreadful. He also wonders whether the same creator that made the lamb could possibly also make the tiger.

In the poem "The Tyger," the narrator addresses the tiger directly ("Tyger Tyger") in wonderment and awe. In the first stanza, Blake questions what creator "could frame thy fearful symmetry." "Could" in this context carries the meaning of "would have been able to." In other words, Blake questions the ability of anyone, even God, to create such a fearsome and magnificent beast.

In the last stanza, Blake questions whether even God "dare frame thy fearful symmetry." In this context, Blake is not questioning God's ability to create the tiger. He is instead questioning the complexity of the universe that includes light and darkness, good and evil, peacefulness and savagery, and lambs and tigers. He is not criticizing God's decision to create such physical and moral complexity, but rather marveling at God's wisdom and courage in daring to do it. This is reflected in the subtitle to the book in which "The Tyger" first appeared: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.

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William Blake's "The Tyger," one of the most compelling poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794), is an exploration of the nature of God and of good and evil. As your question notes, Blake's change of one word in the first and sixth stanzas—from could frame to dare frame—carries with it two central questions: What kind of being could make such a fearsome animal? And why would the same God who creates the lamb (innocence) also create something as fearful as a tiger (experience)? As Blake suggests, there is a frightening difference between what God is physically able to do and what he dares to do. Were you to see the illustration that appears with the poem, you would notice that Blake's tiger looks fairly harmless, more like a colorful and large domesticated cat than a predator. The poem, however, depicts a fearsome, almost mechanistic, animal that is created by a being whose intentions are ambiguous. In light of God's creation of a lamb, a symbol associated with Christ (the Lamb of God), and the tiger, an emblem of violence, one cannot easily determine either God's plan or his nature.

Blake advances the depiction of both tiger and its maker through a series of unanswered questions intended to cast doubt on the nature of the tiger's creator and of the tiger itself:

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

Blake begins to question the tiger's origin and creator. "Deeps" or "skies" may allude to Hell and Heaven or, in a more natural sense, the tiger might be a creature of the light or of the darkness. In either case, the reader is to understand that the tiger's origin cannot be determined. In the succeeding two lines, Blake uses allusions that make the tiger's creator a mystery:

On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

The first is most likely an allusion to Icarus, who aspires to fly but is brought down by Apollo, and the second is to Prometheus, who steals fire from the gods in order to help mankind and is punished by the gods. The reader is then left a bit puzzled by the nature of both animal and its creator. Is God omnipotent or, like Icarus and Prometheus, simply daring?

Blake's third and fourth stanzas make it clear that the tiger's nature is the product of mechanics rather than the breath of life, and its creator is, metaphorically, a blacksmith:

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart. ...
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

The tiger's creator does not breathe life into the tiger; rather, using his strength and industrial skills (art), he is able to create the tiger's heart as if he were twisting cables or iron rods, as a blacksmith does. The reference to dread hand and dread feet alludes to the blacksmith's hands, wielding hammer and tongs, and his feet, which operate the bellows that keep the fire at the proper temperature. The industrial nature of this creation is even clearer in the following lines:

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was they brain?
What the anvil? ...

This depiction of the blacksmith clouds the nature of the God who makes the lamb and the tiger. In the creation of such a fearful creature, God becomes an industrial worker rather than a God who creates life by instilling life into a creation. The tiger, then, is an emblem of the evils of industrialization that Blake explores fully in his poem "London."

Perhaps more important, however, is the dual nature of God himself—"Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"—a being who is capable of creating both good and evil. In Blake's belief system, humanity is trapped in the tension created by the dual nature of God, who is not only capable of making an animal like the tiger but also willing to make such an animal. The God who makes the lamb is "meek & He is mild," but, in his role as creator of experience, he is a God who dares to "frame [the tiger's] fearful symmetry." Blake closes the gap between could and dares with an exploration of the duality inherent in lamb and tiger and of God's dual nature.

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"The Tyger" is a poem of questions which uses the metaphor of a tiger to examine the mind and purposes of God. In the beginning, the initial question is who could construct such a simultaneously beautiful creature that is also seemingly created for destruction. This initial question allows for an examination of the tiger's physical structure. Its stripes of orange and black cut through the dark night like a fire, again symbolizing something which is both captivating and dangerous. The tiger has incredible "symmetry," a mathematical examination of the perfect design inherent in the tiger's form.

The speaker then moves into further questions about the nature of a creator who could choose to create something whose design allows for such destruction. "What wings" provided this aspiration? "What hands" could be powerful enough to intentionally capture "the fire" inherent in a tiger's design?

"The Lamb" is an allusion to biblical references of Christ, who is also known as the Lamb of God, as seen in John 1:29:

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

The question then becomes one regarding the central nature of God, which is a theological debate for thousands of years: How could God create perfect goodness (as seen in the Lamb) and also complete evil (as seen in the metaphor of the tiger—something beautiful and destructive)?

This is why the stanza is repeated to focus on the daring aspect of the creator behind both good and evil. The verb switch to dare reinforces the idea of a powerful, fearless creator who is stronger than even the tiger—and therefore evil—and has a purpose (albeit an unknown one) for both types of creations.

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The one word that changes between the first and last stanzas is "could," the word which begins the final line of the first stanza. In the last stanza, the word "could" changes to "dare."

The poem begins by asking who could create something as fearful as a tiger. The word could asks who is capable of performing the feat. It asks who has the ability to do this.

The next four stanzas then dwell on the idea of an artisan God forging the tiger, establishing in the speaker's mind how this could be done.

Having dwelled so long on how the tiger could be formed, the speaker's thoughts to the far bigger question of what God would have the daring to do this. The speaker has accepted that God has the capacity to create a tiger and moved instead to awe that God would have the sheer audacity to choose to create such a beautiful but fearful creature. Blake in the last stanza is thus entering the realm of the sublime, which is the sense of awe and fear that God's creation can engender. We, too, are left to wonder about the mystery of what kind of God would move from creating a world wholly gentle to one filled with both beauty and terror.

Blake poses the final question, but never answers it, leaving the poem open-ended.

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In the first stanza, the speaker is asking if something could be done, and in the last stanza the speaker is elevating that if to a who would dare tostatement.  There is more fear and emotional weight in the last stanza than in the first.  Blake has built the poem up to this final line.  The poem is filled with very fearful images of the power of this tyger who has burning eyes like fire and who has dread hands and dread feet which can hammer, chain, smash and grasp its prey.  The ultimate question of the poem comes in the 5th stanza when the speaker asks, "Did he smile his work to see? / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"  This poem is asking if the immortal hand that created the fierce tyger is pleased with his work and is it the same immortal hand that created an opposite creature like the Lamb.  This poem, and its opposite poem, "The Lamb" both come from Blakes Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  These collections of poems explore the innocence of the world or the experience of the world.  The innocent poems suggest optimism, hope, faith, and simplicity.  The experience poems suggest pessimism, fear, and harsh reality.  There are sweet things in this world, like Lambs (suggestive of  faith in Jesus Christ) and there are animals to be feared, like the tyger, used metaphorically to suggest a harsher world of experience. 

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