Poem introduction

A companion piece to Blake’s poem 'The Lamb', 'The Tyger' has been called the most anthologised poem in English. Certainly it’s a poem that has entered the national consciousness and still beats in the bloodstream, in a merciless and insistent rhythm where every syllable, every preposition even, is weighted like iron. The urgency behind his interrogation is ferocious as Blake posits the most essential question of faith: Why is there such pain and horror in our world, given a merciful God? God the Creator, the blacksmith, is also identified with the creative artist, but there is no answer, the question is left reverberating and we are left, caught between beauty and savagery to face the eternal mystery at the heat of creation.

The Tyger

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, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and 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 watered 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?

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William Blake

William Blake Downloads read by Mimi Khalvati

1The Sick Rose


2The Tyger


3The Chimney Sweeper - When my mother ...


4The Chimney sweeper - A little black thing...