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The Tiger

The Tiger is a poem by the English poet William Blake. It was part of his collection Songs of Experience and was written sometime around 1793. It is one of Blake's best known poems. It is also one of the most analyzed of his poems.

Table of contents
1 Gnostic Themes
2 Industrialization
3 Experience

Gnostic Themes

In both form and subject the poem closely follows his earlier work the "The Lamb" that was part of his Songs of Innocence collection. He references this work in the fifth verse with the question "Did He who made the lamb make thee?". While "The Lamb" lauded a noble and gentle God the shepherd "The Tiger" looks at the God who created death and misery in the world. The poem is an exploration of Gnostic thought, which very much interested Blake. This is heavily inspired by the works of John Milton, whom Blake sometimes believed himself to be a recreation of. The lines "On what wings dare he aspire?/What the hand dare seize the fire?" can be seen as a reference to the story of Prometheus or that of Paradise Lost and begins the speculation that Lucifer may also have played a role in creating the universe. The lines from the fifth verse "When the stars threw down their spears/ And watered heaven with their tears," is also often considered the be a reference to Paradise Lost.


Blake was one of the most noted romantic poets and like them he saw the pastoral country side as idyllic and viewed industrialization as a blight. "The Tiger" uses many images of the industrial world fire, hammers, anvils, and furnaces all convey an image of the "satanic mills" of the nineteenth century.


"The Tiger" was published as a part of Songs of Experience and the poem can also be seen as dealing with the growing knowledge of the world as one ages. While "The Lamb" is grounded in the pastoral settings of Blake's youth "The Tiger" is set in the industrialized modernity. "The Tiger" reflects a knowledge that evil exist in the world and that benevolence is not omnipresent.

The title of Northrop Frye's first groundbreaking work on Blake Fearful Symmetry is a quote from the poem.