Analysis of William Blake’s The Tyger and The Lamb from Song of Experience (1794) and Song of Innocence (1789)


“Blake’s poetry contained an honesty against which 
the whole world conspires because it is unpleasant.” 
- T. S. Eliot

William Blake was a mystic poet and this ‘Mystic movement of his mind required Metaphor, he saw no likeness but identities, so the images and symbols are found galore (plentiful) in his poems. The image of generally viewed as singles in dimension while the symbol as more complex. Legions and Cazamian remark that Blake’s poetry deals in the subtlest (illustrated) of symbolism with the skill that can not be matched. In the Song of Innocence (1789) his symbols are largely drawn from the Bible, but in the Song of Experience (1794) he often uses symbols of his own making, and his meaning is more elusive. 

The Lamb and The Tyger are both representative poems of Blake. They celebrate two contrary states of the human soul- innocence and experience. The lamb celebrates the divinity and innocence of not merely the child but also of the beast harmless creatures on earth, viz the lamb. “The Lamb” explores the innocence of children’s understanding of God and the natural world.  The child asks the lamb weather it knows its merciful creator, the tiger giver of its soft easy clothing’s or its tender voice which fills the valets with music and pleasure. But the child does not wait for the answers. He answers the question himself. He refers to the meekness and gentleness of God as the lamb’s creator. He is one who calls himself a lamb. He is meek and mild and comes on earth as a little child. However, the child concludes wishing the lamb God’s blessings. The poem is a simple one but its apparent simplicity simply intensifies its deeper meaning. Here the creator is identified with the created. It is written in a lyric style of great freshness, simplicity, and directness.Both series of poems take on deeper resonances when read in conjunction. Innocence and Experience, “the two contrary states of the human soul,” are contrasted in such companion pieces as “The Lamb” and “The Tyger.” Blake’s subsequent poetry develops the implication that true innocence is impossible without experience, transformed by the creative force of the human imagination.
The Tyger may be interrupted as an allegory reflecting the opposing powers of ‘God and Satan’ of good and evil. Both Tiger and Lamb are the visible parts of God’s creation. God created the tiger, the aggressor and the lamb the prey. The coexistence of fierceness represented by the tiger and the gentleness represented by the lamb is a mystery, a mystery of contrariness. The violent strength alarming in its possibilities of destructiveness is seemingly an open challenge to the idea of a benign creator. Early in the song of Innocence, Blake sets his poem about lamb with its artless question. 

               “Little lamb, who made thee?
                 Dos’t thou know who made thee?” 

Similarly early in the song of experience to quote C.N.Bowra (From the Romantic Imagination): Blake sets his poem about the tyger with its more frightening and more fighter question. The lamb and the tyger are symbol for two different states of the human soul: when the lamb is destroyed by experience the tyger in needed to restore the world.

The images in the poems again added significance and magnitude when they move into the arena of symbolism Blake retaining the old spelling ‘Tiger’ is worth noticing for it’s seems to emphasize the symbolic quality and priest nature of the animal. The metallic and the clinging image are suggested by the use of the ‘hammer’ the ‘chain’ the ‘anvil’. The physical perceptions of the creator at work wresting with his stupendous creation are suggested by this shoulder hand and feet. The shape from and physical movement of the beast have been caught in the phrase ‘fearful symmetry’ and the idea of physical immediacy is convey in the line,“What the hand dare seize the fire?” For some the tiger stands for the pervasive evil in the world for others it symbolizes an awful beauty in creation of the universe. The forest ‘of the night’ in which the tiger lurks represents ignorance repression and superstition. The ‘fire’ is a symbol of wrath or passion of anger. The ‘stars’ too suggests the angels – The rebel angels.




Both the lamb and the tiger are created by God. The lamb represents the milder and gentler aspect. The lamb represents the calm and pleasant beauty of creation, the tyger its fearful beauty. The grass contrasts between the nature of the lamb and the tyger make the poet ask- ‘did he who made the lamb make thee’.

The tyger is God’s wrath as the lamb is his love. The tiger is a truth lens, natural predatory and it is ‘man own burning passion shut up within his natural body.’  The lamb, on the other hand, is an object of joy. Its bleat fills all the valleys with joy. The question asked in The Lamb proceeds from the simplicity and innocence of the questioner (The child). They have nothing of the bottling and enigmatic nature of the questions asked in the tiger.

Boehme, the Alchemical philosopher, says ‘the God of the holy world and the God of the dark world are not two Gods there is but one God’. He himself is all Being. He is evil and good, Heaven and Hell, light and darkness, eternity and time. Where His love is hid in anything there His anger is manifested.

Legoius and Cazamian remark that Blake’s poetry deals in the subtlest of symbolism with the skill that can not be matched. The lamb represents the purity of the divine soul and it is complete in itself while uninterrupted by experience. Blake’s Tyger represents the fierce of the soul. The tyger stands for the revolt and wrath. However terrible the tyger may be it is the different manifestation of Christ.   



Ref: 1. A. C. Swinburne-William Blake: A Critical Essay
      2. G. L. Keynes- Bibliography of William Blake