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"Can you give to the horse mightyness? Can you clothe its neck with a rustling mane? Can you cause it to leap like a locust?"(Job 39:19-20)
William Blake?s The Tyger is reminiscent of when God questioned Job rhetorically about his creations, many of them being fearsome beasts such as the leviathan or the behemoth. Much like this speech from the old testament, The Tyger also uses a significant amount of imagery and symbolism which contributes to its spiritual aspects.
There is a wealth of imagery in the first two lines alone. The poem begins:
"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night," The reader conceives in their mind the image of a tiger with a coat blazing like fire in the bowels of a dark forest. This creates a negative impression of the tiger, so some might say that the tiger is symbolic of evil. Some people may go even further to conclude that the tiger is a symbol of Satan. Perhaps mainly the people who derive their interpretation of hell from Dante?s Inferno, or other works of literature that portray the devil as a predator, cloaked in flames residing in the darkness of hell. The same type of imagery and symbolism is used in the first two lines of the second stanza, where it says: "In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes?"
The images of "distant deeps or skies" again presents images of a realm of darkness, and one is reminded again of the traditional interpretation of hell. It is implied that the "fire of thine eyes" had its origins in this place, thus reinforcing the symbol. The image of fire in connection with the tiger is conceived again, this time within the eyes. The fire in a tiger?s eyes can be seen as a symbol of ferocity, and it takes no stretch of the imagination to look upon Satan in the same way as well.
In the fourth stanza, Blake asks:What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? What dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
The hammer, chain, furnace, and anvil are undoubtedly symbols of creation, but how does the imagery contribute? Well, the tiger was crafted with the aid of a hammer and anvil. Its brain is said to be made of fire, as it came from a furnace. So one sees by the imagery connected to the connection of the tiger, that it is inhuman, and was manufactured in quite an unnatural manner. This contributes greatly to the negative impression of the tiger, and raises questions about the nature of evil, and the origins of the devil.
The fifth stanza goes on to say: "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?" The "stars" are probably a symbol of God?s angels. This can be backed up by the scripture at Job 38:7 which says:"?When the morning stars joyfully cried out together, and all the sons of God began shouting in applause?" The imagery of the poem seems to support this, as it could only be spirit creatures who "water?d heaven with their tears". If the tiger is a symbol of Satan, then perhaps the images of water (in the form of teardrops) are to provide a contrast between the angels from whom the tears come from; and Satan, as the tiger is consistently associated with fire. If the tiger which is associated with evil symbolizes the devil, then certainly the Lamb, which most associate with goodness, is a symbol of Jesus Christ. These symbols and images make the question of whether or not the same God could create both these creatures all the more dramatic.
The spiritual aspects of this poem are apparent and undeniable. Equally so is Blake?s use of symbolism and imagery which contribute to these. The Tyger just goes to show that literature need not be divinely inspired in order in order to be spiritually thought provoking.
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