The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Tyger” is a short lyric poem of twenty-four lines that asks, without giving explicit answers, how an all-perfect God responsible for innocence and goodness can be the creator of violence and evil. Its questions are unanswerable, for they search a realm altogether beyond human understanding. Divine creation occurs outside time and place through a being who is, by definition, incomprehensible and worthy of the childlike wonder expressed by the poem’s speaker before the terrible beauty of a dark, alien reality.

That William Blake envisioned all reality as a duality of light and dark, peace and violence, good and evil, and innocence and experience is indicated by the full title of the volume in which “The Tyger” appeared: Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. According to Blake’s private mythology, the ideal is an artistically and imaginatively unified humanity (or cosmos) harmonizing the contraries, which, in this volume of his poetry, are split into psychological realms of innocence (vulnerable to victimization by a stifling adult world) and of experience (a fallen world of suffering, evil, and division). Thus, instead of an integrated primal human being, there is in this volume a poem of innocence entitled “The Lamb” juxtaposed to its contrary, “The Tyger,” arguably the greatest and most cryptic lyric poem in Blake’s entire literary canon.

The poem begins...

(The entire section is 567 words.)