Comparative Study on ‘The Lamb’ and ‘The Tyger’ : William Blake is one of the most renowned English poets who created brilliant images using various literary devices. It is really remarkable that the poet could create a marvelous story about things that many people regard as very simple and meaningless. Who created good and evil? Why would the same hands that created the good also create evil? These are probably questions that us, human beings have been asking ourselves sometimes in our lives but do not have answers to. William Blake, in his two poems “The Lamb” and “The Tiger” addresses these questions. They give a view on religion that shows innocence and saintliness, as well as the frightening and inexplicable. It is possible to compare and contrast two poems, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger”, to understand how the poet managed to create evoking and appealing images. Both of these poems have similar ways of passing the message to the audience but are also different at the same time.
In William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, he creates a series of poems that contrast one another such as “The Lamb” which describes an innocent, child-like view of the world and “The Tyger” which describes a more mature world-view. In Blake’s poem “The Lamb,” he has an innocent child speaking to a lamb about God and the wondrous gift of life that the lamb has received and how the Son of God is also called a Lamb (Blake 120 Line 14). Blake uses this innocent and joyous conversation to portray the infinite goodness of God as seen through the worshipful eyes of a child. In contrast, Blake’s poem entitled “The Tyger” is questioning why the God who made the gentle lamb would also make such a ferocious creature as the Tyger (Blake 130 Line 20). Instead of the stated assurance of the child in “The Lamb,” “The Tyger” is a constant questioning with no hints of the innocence in the previous poem. The speaker of “The Tyger” is more mature in the words picked to describe the Tyger while the word choice in “The Lamb” is more artless. The differences in William Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” are shown by the innocent child speaker in “The Lamb” and the more mature speaker in “The Tyger” in which contrasting techniques are used to juxtapose the two poems: the simpler sentence structure used in “The Lamb” and the more complicated rhetorical questions used in “The Tyger”; the ingenuous word choices in “The Lamb” and the more sophisticated ones in “The Tyger”; and the literal assurance of the child in “The Lamb” that God is the Creator and the lack of an answer for a creator in “The Tyger.” “The Lamb” is indeed a Song of Innocence while “The Tyger” is a Song of Experience.
These poems both ask a question about the creator. In the Lamb, the creator question is answered. The child knows that the one who created him is the same being that created the Lamb, in lines 17 and 18, Blake writes: “I a child & thou a lamb;/ We are called by his name”. The child though does not mention God until in lines 19 and 20 when he says: “Little Lamb God bless thee. /Little Lamb God bless thee.” “The Lamb” directly tells us that the child knows the creator to be God, while in “The Tyger” the creator question is not answered; it is left hanging for the reader to figure it out. The author asks if the same mighty hand that created the sweet and innocent lamb could be the same hand that created the fearful and dreadful tiger. This is shown in the fifth stanza when Blake says, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” Though these poems are similar in that they ask the creator question, they are different in the way that the question is asked. In “The Tyger”, Blake presents his question in Lines 3 and 4 in a more arrogant way, “What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”, while in the Lamb, the question is “Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee”
“The Lamb” and “The Tyger” are both representative poems of William Blake. “The Lamb” celebrates the divinity and innocence not merely of the child but also of the least harmless of creatures on earth, the lamb. The child asks the lamb if it knows who has created it, given it its beautiful and sweet voice. He does not wait for the answers, but answers the questions himself. He refers to the meekness and gentleness of God, the lamb’s creator. His descent to the earth as a child (i.e. his incarnation) and his own is the lamb’s divinity. He concludes wishing the lamb God’s blessing.
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“The Tyger” shows how experience destroys the state of childlike innocence and puts destructive forces in its place. It beaks the free life of imagination, and substitutes a dark, cold, imprisoning four, and the result is a deadly blow to blithe human spirit. The fear and denial of life which come with experience breed hypocrisy which is as grave a sin as cruelty. When innocence is destroyed by experience, God creates the tiger (i.e. fierce forces) to restore mind to innocence.
Both ‘the lamb’ and ‘the tiger’ are created by God. “The lamb” represents the milder and gentler aspects of human nature, the tiger its harsher and fiercer aspect. The lamb represents the calm and pleasant beauty of creation, the tiger its fearful beauty. The gross contrariety between the nature of the lamb and tiger makes the poet ask – “Did he who made the lamb make thee.”
In “The Lamb” Blake sets about his poem with the innocent question,
“Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?”
In “The Tyger”, he sets about the poem with a question that strikes terror in us,
“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry.”
The tiger is God’s wrath, as the lamb His love. The tiger is a ruthless, natural predator and it is man’s own “burning passion shut up within his natural body.” The questioner throughout cannot make out how such things come to be. The lamb, on the other hand, is an object of joy. Its bleat tills all the valleys with joy. The questions asked in The Lamb proceed from the simplicity and innocence of the questioner (the child). They have nothing of the baffling and enigmatic creature of the questions asked in “The Tyger”.
In both the poems Blake makes use of symbols to convey his ideas. In “The Lamb” he draws the symbol from the Bible, and takes use of such a familiar figure as the Lamb of God. In “The Tyger” the symbols, as in other poems of Songs of Experience, are of his own making (i.e. original). The tiger is Blake’s symbol for the fierce forces in the soul which are needed to break the bonds of experience. “The forests of the night” in which the tiger lurks stands for ignorance, repression and superstition, and ‘fire’ for wrath.
The poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” both use animals in addressing the creator question. The difference is that the Lamb is considered meek and mild, showing that it is a harmless animal “Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee ” (lines 15 & 16), while the Tyger is considered to be fearful and dreadful “Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” (1st stanza).
These poems also have a sense of awe about them. The sense of awe in “The Lamb” is more of a childish wonder and innocence, while in “The Tyger” it is more of an adult and an experienced being. Blake’s use of “happy”‘ words in “The Lamb,” words like “delight,” “bright,” and “rejoice” (1st stanza) show the association with innocence. In “The Tyger,” words like “burning,” “burnt” show harm, dreadful, and fearful nature.
The two poems have an allusion. The Lamb symbolizes Christianity, and it being an innocent animal, resembles Jesus, who in the New Testament was innocent and was crucified for our sins. In “The Lamb” there is an allusion to biblical text, suggesting that the Lamb’s creator is God. In lines 3,4, & 5, “Gave thee life, and bid thee feed/ By the stream and o’re the mead/ Gave thee clothing…” resembles Psalms 23 and shows that the Lamb was created by a loving God who created everything else. In the Tyger, there is a paradise lost allusion. Blake includes Satan as likely being involved in the creation of the Tyger when in Lines 5 and 6 he says: “In what distant deeps or skies/Burnt the fire of thy eyes?”. “Deeps” in this sentence signifies “hell” while “skies” signify “heaven”, showing that the creator of the Tyger could be residing in one of the two places.
The author also uses imagery from nature, and shows the difference in the living places for the two animals. The Tyger was said to be living in a forest of the night which is more violent, fiery, and predatory., “Tyger Tyger, burning bright,/In the forests of the night” (lines 1 & 2), whereas the Lamb lives by the stream, a more peaceful place, green, and nurturing “Gave thee life & bid thee feed/By the stream & o’er the mead”.
Both poems use rhetorical questions to understand the world better. The poems go together, and that person cannot speak of one without mentioning the other. The Tyger is the opposite of the Lamb, it speaks of the evils of the world and why such evil do exists. The speaker in the poem questions why would there be evil in creatures created by God. The lamb, on the other hand, is the opposite of the Tyger, praising God’s creation.
Both the poems are remarkable for their lyricism their spontaneity of expression, and their intensity and sincerity of feeling. The diction of “The Tyger” is almost monosyllabic and the trochaic movement, freely used, contributes to the musical effects. The same is true of “The Lamb”. The rhythmical variation in the Lamb (three-stress couplets opening and closing each stanza, and four-stress central couplets) is effective in presenting the child’s delight in asking questions and the enumeration of the questions.
These poems, however address the “two contrary states of the soul”: innocence and experience which reflect good and evil respectively. The Romantics sought to explore the soul, its contrary states, connection to nature and the imaginative and innovative powers which would change the face of literature. Blake, in response to the rationalism of the Romantics, has chosen to exemplify these two states in relation to nature by choosing two contradicting animals: Lamb and Tiger. Lamb is known to be a peaceful animal while a Tiger is a dangerous animal. In “The Lamb” the innocence which became so important in the Romantic period is obvious. The author asks the questions, and then speaks like a child in answering them to take the reader to a higher level of truth. He points out “features” which a lamb would have–“clothing of delight, tender voice,” etc. In the second, third, and fourth stanzas of “The Tyger”, he lists the remarkable physical features of this amazing creature. He goes on to ask, what would be his answer, if the one who made the lamb made the tyger…what does this contrast offer the reader a chance to reflect on here? The fifth stanza asks what the maker’s reaction was when he saw the “fearful symmetry” of this creature.
Thus the poet Blake brings out the two aspects of society – some are holy and innocent and others ferocious and violent. So the child is confused to see the society through his experience. But in these two poems demand the spiritual mysticism of God’s activity. God creates not only holy and innocent, but when He needs He can create the cruel and violent – this world the variety co-exist in equal measure, thus the creator keeps the balance in his creation and unity in diversity.
The poems are similar in the theme of creation, imagery and rhyme scheme. The poems are also different from the structure, and the way they are written. The Tyger is longer than the lamb, illustrating that it has more meaning than the lamb. William Blake tackles a difficult subject in “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” within his works the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience: who is God? He uses an innocent child in “The Lamb” to state unequivocally that God is the Creator, but uses a more mature speaker in “The Tyger” to question who the creator may be and why he would create evil as well as good. The ways in which he contrasts these two poems and their opposing points-ofview are done by using simple sentence structure, unpretentious word choices, and giving the child complete assurance in its belief in God in “The Lamb” and by using more complicated rhetorical questions, more detailed and sophisticated word choices, and lack of concrete belief in a creator in “The Tyger.”