William Blake (1757-1827)
The Tyger is a highly symbolic poem based on Blake’s personal philosophy of spiritual and intellectual revolution by individuals. The speaker in the poem is puzzled at the sight of a tiger in the night, and he asks it a series of questions about its fierce appearance and about the creator who made it. But the context and everything in it must be interpreted according to Blake’s philosophy of symbolic myths about human life, society and spiritual revolution.
It is also a romantic poem to some extent written by the pre-romantic William Blake. The ‘Tyger’ is a symbolic tiger which represents the fierce force in the human soul. It is created in the fire of imagination by the god who has a supreme imagination, spirituality and ideals. The anvil, chain, hammer, furnace and fire are parts of the imaginative artist’s powerful means of creation. The imaginative artist is synonymous with the creator. The man with a revolutionary spirit can use such powers to fight against the evils of experience.
So, the god creating the tiger can be interpreted as any of these creative agents which inspire common men to free their minds, hearts and souls from the chains of social falsities- the king, the priest, the landlord and their systems that eat up the individual’s potentials. The creator has strong shoulders (energy) as well as art (skills) and dread feet and hand. His courage is supreme, too. His creation is fierce, almost daunting himself. So must be man’s spirit and imagination, or the poet’s. The forest is the symbol of corrupted social conventions and that tries to suppress the good human potentials. In the poem night stands for ignorance, out of which the forest of false social institutions is made.
Similarly, the context of a person asking questions and getting puzzles at the tiger symbolically represents the final beginning of the realization and appreciation of the forces of his own soul. This individual will then begin his personal spiritual revolution. The poem is taken from the “Songs of Experience” which means the adult world of corruption, immorality and suffering. Passing through the first phase of “Innocence” or the pure child’s-like world or mentality in “Songs of Innocence”, and then having experienced the opposite world of experience, the speaker in this poem has begun to recognize the suppressed power of his soul and realize its necessity. He is himself puzzled at its fearful faces, and begins to realize that he had gotten, not only the lamb-like humility, but also the tiger-like energy for fighting back against the domination of the evil society. The qualities of the original and pure man must be freed by using this tiger- like force of the soul. Blake’s imaginative man or creative artist is a rebellious being. It also represents the double potentials in any human being.
Thematically, the poem is intended to make us to witness the persona realizing the potentials of his soul and to realize it ourselves. We have not only the lamb (Christ) like humility but also the tiger like quality for spiritual revolution and freedom from falsities. The unusual spelling in “Tyger” is also a hint of the special meaning and emphasis as the unusual stresses. The use of the first stanza as a refrain repeating it with the difference of one word (dare) at the end is also for special emphasis on its symbolism. Readers who have learnt some of the private symbols of Blake can only understand this poem. But it is not too difficult after we get at the basic symbols.
Sharma, K.N. "The Tyger by William Blake: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 24 Nov. 2013, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/the-tyger.html.