The Tyger by William Blake, Summary & Analysis

The Tyger by William Blake

Full Analysis of the Poem by Mohamed Zayed, a Linguist

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water' d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The poem is one of Blake’s Songs of Experience volume. The poem has been often recognized as one of Blake’s finest works. The poem is largely quoted and popular with people.

The Tyger is a poem navigating the nature of creation and the grandeur of the creator. Yet, the poem takes a dark side of creation. The complexity of Blake’s ideas in the poem contrasts with his simple language and construction. This poem is to be read in comparison and contrast with Blake’s The Lamb which shows the more innocent aspect of creation and human nature as manifested in the creation of the lamb which is a symbol of innocence. Blake believed that a person has to pass through a state of innocence—to be a lamb—in order to absorb the contrasting conditions of experience—being a tiger thus achieving one’s purpose in life.

Hence, Blake’s view of the universe is a balance of innocence and experience. Blake starts the poem by depicting a tiger that is both of passionate as well as fiery nature. It is a magnificent creature that dwells in the shadows and dark areas of life. The symbolism of the tiger represents the dark aspect of the human soul. Then in lines 3 and 4, the structure is close to the ones in Blake’s The Lamb. Hence, we conclude that The Tyger is meant to be read in comparison and contrast with The Lamb. In these lines, the poet sheds lights on the divine magnificence that created the tiger. It is the same immortal hand that made all other creatures, i.e. the lamb.

In the lines to follow, Blake uses the metaphor of fire to represent the way the tiger perceive the world and how it is perceived. In this way, the tiger may be seen as a symbol for the human ego which has fury and power. Then Blake wonders at the creator of such fiery creature whether it is God or an evil “dreadful” hand—Lucifer. Fire suggests a hellish atmosphere.

Then in lines 9 and 10 we find the poet describing the unique nature of the tiger showing the power and strength of both the tiger and its maker. Shoulders stand for the responsibility that the tiger—human ego—bears while sinews stand for the tendons that make the heart beat. In these lines, it is shown how Blake is highly appreciative of the image of the creativity of the wonderful beast. This image which is full of dynamicity gives the reader a vivid insight into the whole scene of the tiger in its natural vicinity.

Then the poet states that the tiger is not chained; it has a life of its own; it is no longer under the control of the reins of the maker. Blake wonders at the magnificence of the creature of the tiger asking whether the creator could have been thinking in creating it. What is more, the lines seem to imply a question on behalf of Blake: “Why did God create such a dreadful creature? And if God did so, would that make the hands of God “dreadful” too?” The fiery atmosphere of the poem is continued in lines 13 and 14 through the employment of the image of hammers, chains and furnaces. The image of God as an artist is distorted in these lines. Yet, such image is consistent with the image of the fiery tiger.

The anvil of the poem is another industrial tool in the hands of the maker which he firmly clasps in passion and courage. Yet, such courage and passion are terrifying since it reflects the poet’s worst fears of what it really means to create. Then Blake concludes his poem asking the fateful and critical question: “Did the same God who made the lamb also make the tiger?” These lines evoke the nature of God as both capable of tenderness as well as dread and that neither one of them is preferable. It represents God as an artist who may, sometimes, create dreadful works that may be better understood one day and smiled at by the people.

Finally, Blake employs the repetition of his first stanza to reinforce his ideas and to give us another deeper insights into the real meaning of the poem which is not a mere description of the tiger; rather it is a philosophical question of the nature of creation. It is this creature of fire that wanders through the shadows of our selves to illuminate them.

As for form and structure, this lyric poem consists of four-line stanzas with pairs of rhyming couplets which serves the function of continuity of rhythm.  The meter of this poem is trochaic tetrameter. Since it is a lyric, the poem is highly musical with its rhymes and sound devices such as alliteration as in “frame” and “fearful”. Also, the richness of symbols as well as the question technique render the poem dynamic and attention-grabbing.


  1. Thanks for sharing such a nice content. Your post was really good. Some ideas can be made. About English literature. Further, you can access this site to learn more about William Blake Precursor of Romantic Poetry

  2. Thank you. Glad it helped. Best of luck!