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Blake’s Unanswered Questions

art print of Blake’s The Number of The Beast is 666

Last month, while thinking about a new prompt, I considered using “The Tyger” as a model poem. It might be the most famous poem written by William Blake, though “The Lamb” and “Jerusalem” are also contenders. The opening line, “Tyger Tyger, burning bright” is among the most famous opening lines in English poetry.

It turns out that I have already used “The Tyger” as a prompt about questions since the poem is a series of questions, as is “The Lamb.”

Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

The poem appeared in Blake’s 1794 volume Songs of Experience, which complemented his earlier collection, Songs of Innocence. I was taught that the poem was a kind of answer to the earlier “The Lamb.” 

“The Tyger” is a series of questions as the speaker wonders about a creator who would make something so fearsome. The tiger is “burning bright” and its creator is a kind of blacksmith.

In the fifth stanza, Blake brings in the “stars” which I have always associated with both astrology and destiny.

Blake seems to ask why this all-loving God made such a fearsome animal? “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

“The Tyger” is in Blake’s Songs of Experience, and is seen as a complement to the earlier Songs of Innocence with its innocent “The Lamb.” Was Blake reconsidering the innocence of the world?

Scan of a plate printed by William Blake from Songs of Experience (1794)
British Museum, Public Domain via Wikimedia

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