Songs Of Experience "Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright"

William Blake

"Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Having written his "Songs of Innocence," a collection of clear, simple songs to and about children, Blake composed his "Songs of Experience," which deal with what the poet called "the contrary state of the human soul." These latter poems are concerned with the evil in the world and employ Blake's characteristic technique of tightly-woven metaphors and symbols that are intended to convey a multiplicity of meaning. The poem from which this quotation comes is to be regarded as a companion-piece to "The Lamb" in the "Songs of Innocence." In the first poem the question is asked, "Little Lamb, who made thee?" and the reply is "He is callèd by thy name,/ For He calls Himself a Lamb." By contrasting the innocent lamb with the fearful tiger, the poet draws together both good and evil and raises the seemingly unanswerable question of whether the same Creator could have fashioned both: "Did He who made the Lamb make thee?" The poet concludes by repeating, with a slight change, the first stanza, expressing his wonder at such a terrifying creation as the tiger:

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?