What happens literally in "The Tyger"?

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In "The Tyger," the speaker addresses a tiger, describing its appearance and questioning it as to its creator, asking how its creator formed its terrible body and brain and how its creator felt when that creator saw the finished tiger. Ultimately, the speaker marvels that the same creator who made the sweet little lamb also made this fearsome tiger.

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The speaker of the poem addresses a tiger directly (a poetic device called apostrophe), using a metaphor in which he compares the tiger's appearance to a fire, saying that he is "burning bright." A metaphor is a comparison of two unalike things in which one is said to be the other; here, the tiger is like fire.

The speaker contemplates the tiger's creator and that "immortal hand or eye" of the creator that made the tiger in all its "fearful symmetry." Here, Blake employs synecdoche (a substitution of a part for the whole), substituting the creator's "hand" or "eye" for the creator's whole self. The speaker wonders where the "fire" in the tiger's eyes has come from. He wonders how the creator could have fashioned the tiger's shoulder, its heart, its feet.

The speaker next wonders in "what furnace" the tiger's brain could have been forged, using another metaphor linked to fire to describe the animal's creation. He wonders if the tiger's creator was gratified by his creation—whether the creator smiled when he saw the tiger finished. In his penultimate question, the speaker asks, "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" in apparent awe or wonder that the very same creator who made the gentle lamb also made this fearsome tiger. This is the literal meaning of the poem.

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