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Poem of the Week: A New Feature

The following is what I hope will become a new, “interactive” feature on the blog. Each week I am going to post a poem followed by a few of my thoughts regarding the poem’s meaning, purpose, etc. I may include a few questions as well. Then I hope that discussion will break out about said poem. The idea is for this blog to become a forum of sorts for discussion about the poems so that we can help each other be further enlightened and inspired by the world of great literature. Bring forth any knowledge or ideas you may have of the poem or poet. Want to approach from a feminists perspective? Go right ahead. Want to approach it from a biographical critical approach? Typically a good idea. Want to explore how the poem makes you feel? Completely valid.However you want to approach the subject, I hope that you will join me in this endeavor. Let us go further up and further in.Without further ado, here is the first poem:

 Due to some problems with formatting I just decided to link to the poem, William Blake’s “Tyger, tyger.”

First of all, a little bit of background about Mr. Blake:

He lived from 1757-1827

He was an English poet and artist who was born, and spent much of his life, in London

His only formal education was in art (primarily in drawing and painting) and for a time he studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts.

When Blake was fourteen he became an apprentice to an engraver named James Basire. It was during this time that he began to write poetry.

In 1781 Blake married Catherine Boucher to whom he was married the rest of his life. They had no children together. At the time of their marriage she was illiterate and Blake taught her to read.

For several years Blake worked as an engraver and was fairly successful. He also taught drawing and illustrated books to make money.

He is commonly referred to as a British Romantic poet, however he was not so named until fairly recently when, in the mid 1900’s, his work was revisited and praised by the likes of critic Northrup Frye. It seems that his work was well liked in Blake’s own time, but not considered revolutionary or epic in its greatness, as it is by many theorists and critics today. Today he considered on par with poets like Byron, Wordsworth, Longfellow, Coleridge and other famous torch bearers of British Romanticism.

Blake was a pretty decent artist and often included with his poems (which he always self published, sometimes through engravings) paintings and drawings to further explore the ideas in the words themselves, as you can see by the copy of the engraving to the right. Often these paintings or drawings would even contradict the words though. It seems he did this purposefully in order to highlight a specific idea of create tension between any number of otherwise similar ideas. He loved to play games with words and pictures.

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A few of my own thoughts on this beautiful and intriguing poem:

 First of all, this is a poem that is widely read — I recall memorizing it in elementary school, in fact. However, I don’t think people really grasp the depth of this work; it is really quite complicated.

On the one hand, it can be seen as a poem about the battle between good and evil: the tyger, according to this theory, represents, perhaps, the devil, or at least some sort of evil being that is representative of evil as an idea. A metaphor of evil, if you will.

The reference to fire “burning bright” in the first line of the poem could be a reference to the fires of hell. And in the fourth stanza “when the stars threw down their spears and water’d heaven with their tears” (which you may recognize from a Five Iron Frenzy song!) is probably an allusion to the battle in heaven that resulted in Lucifer’s banishment from Paradise.

On the other hand, there is some of kind creator being whose existence is key to the poem. The poem is actually about the creation of tyger: in the fourth line of the first stanza we read of the tyger’s “fearful symmetry” being “framed;” the entire third stanza is reminiscent of Shelley’s Frankenstein where whoever or whatever created this tyger suddenly realizes they have created a monster; and the fourth stanza seem to be an allusion to a blacksmith, perhaps even the Greek god of fire and forge, Hephaestus. It appears that perhaps what Blake may be suggesting, or at least wondering, is whether God, as creator, created Lucifer (or maybe even evil itself) and upon realizing what he has done or what the creature has become might not have thought it all that “good.”

I can’t say with any certainty whether Blake is actually referring to God himself, but he does seem to be referring to some sort of other-wordly creator. Consider the third line of the first stanza where Blake writes of a “immortal hand or eye,” and again at the end of the poem he makes the same reference. He also uses the word “dare”, a verb, several times in connection with the creator being. He seems to be suggesting that there is something fearless about the creator in that he would “dare” be so bold as first create, then interact with the tyger. Perhaps the creator is fearless because it need not fear anything.

One stanza that makes me think that perhaps Blake is indeed referring to God is the fifth one where he alludes to the battle in heaven. In the final two lines of the stanza he writes: “Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

This sounds like a reference to Genesis where God looks out at His creation and says that it is good. Perhaps this time, Blake might be suggesting, He did not say that His creation was good.

Also, consider the following. “Tyger, tyger” comes from a book of poems called Songs of Experience that is in some ways a sister set of poems to his Songs of Innocence. In S.O.I., as I will call them here, Blake published a poem called “The Lamb” that alludes to, and in some ways mirrors, the form of the early catechisms, those questions and answers that taught children Christian doctrine. In this poem he writes from the perspective of a little child who is questioning the origins of life, particularly the life of a little lamb. The second stanza of that poem directly alludes to Christ’s coming as a child and his subsequent sacrifice as “Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Some critics think that Blake directly and purposefully wrote these poems to correspond and thus it would make sense for his reference to the Lamb in the “Tyger, tyger” to be a corresponding allusion to Christ.

There is so much more that could be discussed about this poem, so what do you think?

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Consider a few things:

Why does Blake use the word “frame” in stanzas one and four. This word has several meanings, what is Blake doing with it here?

I think that Blake is making an allusion to the Greek myth of Daedulus and Icarus, and also the myth of Prometheus, in stanza two, the last two verses. What do you think of this theory? If he did, why did he; and if he didn’t then what else might those lines refer to?

What do you think of Blake’s use of the word “dare” in the poem?

What about the theory that this poem is about the nature and role of art and the artist?

What about the theory this this poem is about nature and decay and the fallen state of man?

What other thoughts do you have???

** Note: biographical information was taken from The Norton Anthology of English Literature (8th Edition, Volume B, Major Authors)

 

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23 thoughts on “Poem of the Week: A New Feature

  1. Wow. What a lot of (good) thought you have put into this poem. I have more to say, but I’m on my way to bed, so for now I thought I’d mention the possibility that “the tyger” is a reference to sex — not that I think so, but I think it has been suggested.

    Also, I believe this line —

    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    — to be the best line of poetry ever written, in terms of composition and in terms of pure evocativeness.

    More later, I hope.

    J

  2. Riley says:

    As I see it,
    An observation of Tyger, a now-abominable creature/creation and an observer’s thoughts on the Creator’s responsibility for making him thus. I believe the poem to be about the terrible wickedness of a creation of God.

    I’m not sure if the Tyger’s dark and hidden action have to be sexual, maybe less than sex in lust or masturbation (though Matt 5 says those aren’t less), or maybe even a broader rendering of lust for anything. Though to that, one cannot help but remember phrases like “lust of the eyes” or the fieriness of sexual powers likened to men and women “burning for one another.” If the sexual strain, then Tyger is an interesting name, suggesting the animality and predatory nature of Tyger’s burning actions done in dark places where certain peoples are lost. Too, I feel the immediate proximity of hand and eye, though here about the artisan of Tyger sets in me the image moving towards sexual lusts. But, whatever the action regards, the emphasis of Tyger! Tyger! need not go unsaid.

    Amidst the beastly act, a saddened realization by the observer, recognizes that a transcendant builder made Tyger thus. One that eyed his frame as an architect and built his particular shape to (now-realized) contain in him his particularly dreadful volumes of twisted propensities.

    These propensities bring about actions that are twisted, burning, deadly, and to be feared. They are actions of Tyger’s eyes, heart, hand, and feet. They cause God’s other creation to look upon him as fearful and twisted; and cause its stars to cry upon heaven and question whether God made him.

    In “distant deeps… [to] thine eyes”, the observer cannot compare the scope of the consumption of Tyger’s lust with breadth or height of the deep or sky. Later, the observer notes the creative force and force it took to create such a twistedness in Tyger (who otherwise may have been initially from the artisan… of good symmetry? Genesis 1).

    I feel this rendering works, but could be far more generic.

    The only line that i don’t understand, actually grammatically, is “What the hand dare sieze the fire?” Why the extra “the?

    O.K. Have at me.

  3. In response to Riley’s post, you have to look at what sex and lust means to Blake, not to you or to I. Blake believed in “free love,” and many of his poems are directed against the church for her failure to allow her people freedom and self expression. (Dear mother, dear mother, the church is cold/But the alehouse is happy and healthy and warm). It seems unlikely to me that, if the Tyger represents sex or lust (or masturbation) Blake would be saddened by or condemning of it.

    My impression, in any case, is that the “terribleness” in the poem is not meant in the sense of “evil,” but rather the awesomeness of beauty and power. “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are just able to bear…” wrote Rainer Marie Rilke.

    The contrast of “innocence” and “experience” in Blake’s poems is, in his mind, somewhat of a false contrast. When he says, “Did he who made the lamb make thee?” he is truly asking the question of his readers, but I think in his own mind he is already sure that it is the same Creator who gave us innocence and experience, and that there is in fact innocence *within* experience. A similar mistake to that of Adam’s when he believed the serpent in the garden: “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    Cool, I haven’t had a good fight with Riley in a while! =)

    Jess’ka

  4. I am correcting my own grammar: You have to look at what sex and lust MEAN, not means, and it should be to you and to me, because “me” is the direct object, not the subject.

    Bad grammar is something up with which I shall not put.

  5. Riley says:

    First your argument: the continuation of “The Little Vagabond,” after the CHILD wonders if churchmen wouldn’t be happier if they’d imbibe as the alehouse-men, “Then, God would be happy to see his kids happy and quit fighting with the devil and the drunks give them both some gracious drinks and clothes.”

    Who is speaking? A CHILD is speaking, as you say, from his innocence. It’s written as a child thinks. If mommy’s happy we’re blessed, so let’s be good; and my fights can be resolved and we’ll all be friends again. That poem cruxes on perspective.

    If it’s not to all be taken from the vagabond child’s perspective, it only says much of Blake’s foolishness on God’s relationship with his children, the world, and the devil. But, it’s from the perspective of a youth, ignorant or innocent of reasons why, but realizing enough that churchmen seem unhappy and drunks seem happy. From this perspective premise he assumes God is unhappy and that is the reason enough too to account for his “little kid-like” fight with the devil and drunks. So, if God could just get happy, say by getting his preachers more like the drunks (by drinking), then He might get happy enough to decide to forgive the devil and drunk people, and everybody’d be happy.

    If this poem is seriously the view of Blake on the real and actual God and his choices (despite the poor manifestation of the attitudes in his churchmen), then Blake is a fool. I do not think this is the case. I think that he was writing from the perspective of a child and thus was nudging the church to realize that they were looking pathetic and being outdone by the world, the world that they were supposed to be exampling their GOD to in order to convince them of a better alternative.

    But, I could be wrong. I’m no Blake-ologist. I did not know his history as free love and sex-ahol. It seems to me that “dear mother” phrase doesn’t mean to argue for absolutely free love and sex, but instead that the church appeared to EVEN CHILDREN in the world at that time to be boring and unhappy-which said something of it’s God that ought not be the case.

    Second, if your rendering be closer to the meaning, Why the use of “dread”, “deadly,” and “heaven crying” because of Tyger?

  6. This discussion has been good guys; keep on! Now that I am feeling less sickly I’ll respond to a few points. First of all, I do not think that “tyger, tyger” is a poem about sexuality. Blake did write many poems that contained imagery meant to be sexual, but it seems to be typically much more obvious (see: “the blossom”, and “the sick rose”).

    However, it is true what Jessica says about Blake’s opinions of sexuality and the church. He advocated sexual freedom and was greatly concerned with the church’s too conservative regulations and opinions regarding the subject. From what I understand, Blake and his wife were, what my 7th grader little brother would call giddily, nudists. Not that that means anything necessarily, but it is an interesting side note. Not many people were nudists in the 1790’s. And he did speak out rather profusely later in his career against the protestant church as a whole.

    He objected that Orthodox Christianity insisted that followers of Christ suppress their earthly passions. He wrote the following in “A Vision of the Last Judgement”:

    “Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have curbed & govern’d their Passions or have No Passions, but because they have Cultivated their Understandings. The Treasures of Heaven are not Negations of Passion, but Realities of Intellect, from which all the Passions Emanate Uncurbed in their Eternal Glory”.

    And in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (in response to which Lewis wrote “The Great Divorce”) Blake wrote:

    “All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.
    1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
    2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
    3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

    But the following Contraries to these are True
    1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
    2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
    3. Energy is Eternal Delight.”

    And also he wrote this regarding the passions:

    “Abstinence sows sand all over
    The ruddy limbs & flaming hair,
    But Desire Gratified
    Plants fruits & beauty there.”

    You see, Blake didn’t believe in God as a separate being from man, as Lord of all and greater than all else, but rather as “Universal Man” who, as Norton’s Anthology writes, “incorporates the cosmos as well.” He wrote in “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” that “men forgot that All deities reside in the human heart.” And he wrote…”he is the only God… and so am I, and so are you.”

    Therefore, since we are all a part of this god, this eternal being, we each must be who we are in this world to the fullest, which means following our inner passions and desires. Consider also another poem from Songs of Experience called “The Garden of Love.” You see, it’s really very clear that Blake was an advocate of fee sex and free passions, etc. And I do think this is an important thing to bring to the table when discussing “tyger, tyger”.

    That being said, I am coming to think that this poem is primarily about about the creative process, and the role of creator. Blake believed that he was prophet, basically a prophet of the apocalypse, and like many of his contemporaries seemed to have believed that the apocalypse was near. And he, like Wordsworth and Coleridge, called for a new imagination, an “apocalypse” of the imagination, what has been called a revolution in imagination.”

    He thought that the new heaven and new earth promised in the biblical prophecies were attained by the person who was able to reach a “new, spiritualized, and visionary way of seeing.” This new way of seeing would free men from the “mind-forg’d manacles” of what The Anthology refers to as “imprisoning orthodoxies.”

    So I think that perhaps this idea of new imagination might be applicable to the poem at hand. Indeed, since God is not supreme being and supreme creator of mankind, as the church teaches, but rather is in — or, just is — each of us, it is because of us, and our own creative impulses that the tyger, fearful as he is, exists at all.

    What does that say about the role future creations should play? Well, I’m not sure. What do you think? It does say that as creators we have a terrible power at hand, though.

  7. The little vagabond was a bad example of Blake’s views on sex, though it’s one of my favorite in terms of complaining about church. 🙂 There are better examples, though: I just didn’t have the energy (nor do I now) to look them up. 🙂 I think David mentioned the blossom and the sick rose.

    It’s difficult for me to talk about Tyger objectively, because it’s a poem that I had a relationship with long before I ever knew anything about Blake himself. It’s hard for me to separate what the poem means to me from what Blake meant it to mean. But without sounding too postmodern, I think poetry and any creative writing does, in a sense, belong to the reader as much as to the writer, and can have more in it than even the author is aware.

    I’ve never read The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. David, the points you bring up about the universal man, apocalyptic imagination and human creativity are very interesting. I’ll have to think about the poem from that perspective. It’s intriguing, though of course based on heresy. 🙂 But there is truth, I think, in the idea that we imitate God in our imagination and creativity (Tolkein’s idea of co-creation).

    I have more to say but I’m not feeling that great right now so I’ll stop here and hope to return with more energy later.

  8. Riley says:

    If this is true about Blake, and I don’t know how it wouldn’t be with the historical bits like his nudity (which morally doesn’t matter either way), I suppose I now know why I have had a long feeling of “meh” with him. I hate hearing that he was THAT wrong and truly is operating from a heretical perspective writing to, in a sense, critique/minister to the church he has so misdiagnosed in their essential nature.

    Don’t get me wrong, i CAN objectify, I can and may try to reparse TYGER that way, but this sucks. Why do so many people that I respect then associate his Corinthian garbage with other’s I so much enjoy, like Pascal, Tolkein, (i guess i can see why Lewis), and… this sucks.

  9. Riley says:

    Do you think my interpretation of The Little Vagabond was correct though, being from the perspective of innocence and looking to each trying to understand their happiness?

    I think with this new Blakean worldview it can still be true.

  10. =( I had that un-lovely disillusioning experience with Blake a few years ago. But there’s so much in his poems that MEANS so much to ME, that I somehow have found my way through it. There are some poems that I just skim over. But some are still so incredibly powerful.

    I think your interpretation of the little vagabond is accurate, except that I think Blake sees himself as the child, and the child’s perspective as the right one. Innocence does not equal ignorance to Blake, it equals wisdom.

  11. Jessica, I do agree with you that poetry, and literature in general, or art in general, can take on unique meanings to each person. I think a piece of art belongs to not only the creator but the person who is experiencing it, because the context of every experience will be different.

    Riley, I think Blake was so influential even among Christians like Tolkien and Lewis, etc, because he had such a distinct and creative visionary, mythical imagination. And he has a great style also. I dont know specifics regarding Tolkien’s and Lewis’s affinity for his work.

    Yeah, I agree with Jessica about Riley’s interpretation of the little vagabond. Perspective is always key with Blake, but it can be confusing to know who is doing the actual speaking. And I agree with Jessica about Blakes opinion of innocence and wisdom.

    So let’s look at this poem from the new perspective. Jessica how did you understand or experience this poem previously?

  12. Well, Professor Kern, back when I was innocent, at least in interpreting literature, the poem was about God’s awesomeness, terror (in the sense of holy fear of God) and glory. If the Creator could fearless twist the sinews of the tiger, how powerful must He really be! The “dread hand, dread feet, dread grasp,” invoked in me the awe-ful knowledge that the Omnipotent Creator God could destroy me with a touch, yet chose — as I felt was hinted at in the question “Did he who made the lamb make thee?” — to instead heal me, love me and care for me. The “shoulders” which I pictured as the naked, overly-muscled shoulders of the blacksmith, red, sweating and flickering with the fire of the forge (I have a very detailed imagination) were the same shoulders that bore my sins, and the same shoulders in the image of Christ carrying a lamb draped over his shoulders. “He is called by thy name, for he calls himself a lamb; he is meek and he is mild, he became a little child,” evoked this to me. In fact, I thought then and still think now that you can’t read The Tyger separately from The Lamb: The contrast is deliberate and very important.

    The last stanza then evoked to me both the drama of creation — “The morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.” ~Job 38:7 — and the Apocalypse. For the latter I imagined the scene in the last Battle with the stars falling to the earth then following the rest of creation through the barn door into the next world. Why they were crying, I wasn’t sure: Perhaps in overwhelming emotion at their God’s display of power, or perhaps in foreknowledge of the destruction that the tiger would bring. For it is a beast, a carnivore, and even apart from symbolic meaning tigers will kill and eat people for their food. But I think I also had the sense of the Tyger as symbolic of sin entering the world, or at least the possibility of sin. God was creating an animal with the potential for destruction, of “deadly terrors.” It was Man’s choice to sin that brought about the destruction, but it was an inherent possibility all along, according to God’s decision to give Man free will.

    This is what the poem meant and still means to me, though now I know that it probably meant something different to Blake.

    Wow, that was really fun to write that. Thanks for asking, David!

  13. Lost and Found says:

    Can I butt in? I love this discussion and am jealous that David has friends who can talk like this and explore poems the way they are supposed to be read.

    Your discussion has enabled me to see things I’ve never seen before in this poem (I don’t have your vivid imagination, tenthousandplaces.

    The thing that you’ve drawn out for me (isn’t it amazing how discussions can make that happen – even when they aren’t about what they draw out) is the courage of the creator of the Tyger (which, I suspect, Blake wants recognized in himself as well).

    Blake sees the Tyger “burning bright/in the forests of the night” and when you get to the second stanza the fire is concentrated in the eyes. Does it come from within? Or does it simply burn in the eyes? I suspect the former, which makes the achievement even greater.

    But where did that fire come from? In some “distant deeps or skies.” Deep space or deep ocean? Perhaps the former, because the next line asks “On what wings dare he aspire?” The creator bravely dared to aspire on wings. And where does one find wings adequate to the task? Somewhere, deeply hidden in mystery, is the fire of the Tyger’s eyes and this great creator was great enough to get it, to seize it with his hand!

    One of you refered to Vulcan or Hephaestus above. That’s an eye opener. The whole poem is the furiously courageous creation of a beast with an unquenchable fire in its eyes.

    I won’t keep noting the lines because at this point it could only interfere with the reading of the poem (although “In what furnace was thy brain” can set the bones atremblin’)

    Fire, of course, is energy, and energy is obviously a big deal to Blake. He seems to tremble at its fearfulness and wonder how it can make both lamb and tyger.

    I see Wagner and Nietzsche latent in this poem. Creative Destruction, the glory of self-imolation as the highest prize, all that Teutonic majesty woven in and through the poem. Energy for its own sake, creation for its own sake, destruction for its own sake.

    I guess I see Dewey there too. Growth as its own end, no matter what it destroys in the process.

    And that’s Blakes courage. He is the one who made the Tyger, right? He was able to see its eye, went and got it in the deeps, forged its brain in his own soul, and wrote this Tyger, as he believed, by inspiration. He risked all to create. One wonders what it killed in him.

  14. This is a great discussion. Jessica, I have always taken away the meaning you originally took from it. What kind of God is this that could create so terrible a beast as the tyger? I am not sure if all of the daring and questioning replete in these verses imply, as David has said, that perhaps it was not so good a creation after all. I can’t help but read this poem but in a tone of awe. That is a very interesting thought, though, David.

    I agree this must be read in tandem with The Lamb. Blake was a man of complicated vision. That’s just like him.

    I can’t help but be reminded of Eliot here. From “Gerontion”: In the juvescence of the year came Christ the Tiger.”

    The medieval beastiaries (books which attributed spiritual meaning within nature) saw wild cats (such as panthers and, yes, tigers) as pictures of Christ.

    I wonder if anyone has heard of this poem being about Christ? I can’t see it myself, but the thought crossed my mind.

  15. Riley says:

    I do feel he thinks he’s courageous. And as an answer, I say it killed God for him. I now see Tyger his Frankenstein, his free creative mind, power, and tenacious workings. For the sake of the argument, I’ll say his and he regards Blake himself speaking about himself, the creator of Tyger. I see it especially because of the lost forcefulness of Heaven, “throwing down their spears,” and weeping; and, then, the call to God, “did he (God) smile his (Blake) to see (making his own free creation). –He (God) that made the Lamb…” that also must contend with thy creative forces. If the poem regards creative force:

    I see stanza 1 exalting Blake’s creative power as rival to the immortal ones’ creative powers, stanza 2 pride at his self-powered or free idea of it, stanza 3 pride at the very creativity of it, stanza 4 pride at the powerfulness of it, stanza 5 as God, the creator of the impressive Lamb, not only being impressed but responding by calling his heaven to throw down their powers and weep at creative defeat, having thus been outdone by his own creation and having now become submissive and fearful to it (Blake), Stanza 6 then is Blake’s response to this his Creator, “dare you frame my life!” It is mine, I am your better, defeater, and superior.

    This is my new rendering. I do feel Blake thinks he’s courageous. And as an answer, I say it killed God for him.

  16. Riley says:

    Tyger might not actually be a creation of Blake, but rather how he views himself as a powerful beast of creation, one to be feared by even God.

  17. I am only going to respond breifly right now to the myriad of great points made in the last few posts: but, I think it is important to remember that Blake equates himself with God; remember, he is God and we are all God to him. Therefore, in a way, yeah Ty it is about Christ.

    Riley, do you mean it killed God as God really is? Like it killed a true vision of God in him?

    And Dad, Energy was everything to Blake and I agree with your interpretation of fire as energy. I m pretty sure that he would interpret that energy as earthly passions, passions that make man who he is, that fulfill him in this world. The culmination of the soul and body in conversation and interaction with one another – in harmony, so to speak. This fire, referred to in the tyger’s eyes, etc, is representative of passion: and of course we know from biographical context that primarily this meant sexuality to Mr Blake.

    I can’t help but keep returning to the notion that this poem is about the role of artist as creator – not even neccessarily as some kind of eternal, Lord-of-all creator, but rather a creator and shaper of words, and the role that art and creation (and all that goes into the act) plays in empowering the human being and fulfilling him. I think that Blake may have believed that in creating mankind is most like God – but he wrongly inferred, unfortunately, that this made him on par with God, actually God himself.

    You mentioned Dewey dad, and that’s an interesting person to bring up. That idea of “Growth for its own end” as you said is something I think Blake, and many of the romantics hung their hat on. It didn’t matter what or how or why we create(d) so long as we do/did! When one considers this idea in it’s entirety it’s kind of terrifying — and what a fatal idea to have permeate culture as a whole! No consequence, no repercussions. Should not art and creation reflect the world back upon itself – such creation fails to do this and as such is wrong and, maybe, is fatal.

  18. Hello, David’s father! Nice to meet you, my name is Jessica.

    Riley, what you said makes a lot of sense to me. I feel that Blake may have actually had a prophetic vision of God, but that instead of allowing himself to be transformed by this knowledge he chose to twist and abuse it to give the power to himself. He saw the true God, but chose not to follow Him, instead deciding that he, Blake, was God. This was the danger inherent in the tree of knowledge, not that knowledge is bad, but that it is powerful. Lewis makes this point in Mere Christianity (unless it’s somewhere else; someone correct me), that Satan has never created anything himself, only twisted God’s good things into evil. The example Lewis uses, strikingly in this context, is sex, which is one of God’s best gifts to us, both in the joy and union between husband and wife and in its service as a metaphor for union with God. But because it is so powerful for Good, its abuse is one of the most powerful sins as well. Not the *worst* or the only sin, as some have made the mistake of thinking, but one of the most destructive to the individual, to society and to the self-hood (self-identity?) of mankind.

    There is such a Truth and Power (capital letters mean God’s Truth, God’s Power) in the poem, that clearly has resonated with God’s true worshipers, despite Blake’s heresy, just as there is Truth and Power in sex, even when it is being used wrongly. But it’s not a saving power. Sadly, I don’t expect to see Blake in heaven. Yet his work points me to heaven.

    I don’t think it’s a mistake that Blake is associated with Lewis, Tolkien and Pascal, as Riley has mentioned. I think they share a creative, mystical, apocalyptic vision of God (Charles Williams’s work, too, is in this category, if you all would ever get off your butts and read him ;). But Lewis and Tolkien followed their vision to the God himself, whereas it seems that Blake chose to worship the vision itself and, through it, *himself.*

  19. Riley says:

    Hello Dad, it’s a great pleasure to meet you. I’ve enjoyed your son for sometime. It’s an honor to have your thoughts.

    I stewed over your mention of Wagner and re-read “The Case of Wagner,” remembering again Nietzsche’s contempt for his old friend. I, too, so love discussion and am glad for it.

    David, yes. His inspiration of it, more so blinded and deafened his already deadened spiritual senses. God might respond by giving him what he wrote, that heaven throw down their defenses in his conscience to let him sadly, ignorantly, not so innocently be.

    In response to Jessica, I have often echoed what you said of the usefulness of Blake in other matters, “Truth is truth is truth (in Blake, Nietzsche, Paul, math, beauty).” But how sad this is to consider the Blakean instrument of truth. Sadly, i paraphrase Nietzsche to say:

    “Why squander ourselves? ..agitating our nerves, slaying them, handling thunder and lightning to throw us to call those who elevate us in such a way divine and whoever leads us into intimations profound. Shall we say in response to these [the passions of Blake] passions –passion, or the gymnastics of what is ugly on the rope of enharmonics, “Let us DARE, my friends, to be ugly.” Wagner has dared it. [Blake has dared it]. Let us dauntlessly roll in front of us the mud of the most contrary harmonies. Let us not spare our hands. Only thus will we become natural. Let us walk on clouds. Let us harangue the infinite. Let us surround ourselves with this kind of symbolism. “Whoever makes us better cannot fail to be good himself.” Thus one becomes good (thus even one becomes a “classic”).”

    Is this Blake a classic to us thusly? –He’s wrong but he rubs me right. He’s a devil, wife beater, and nazi but he plays a mean oboe. Is he a Pied Piper? Must the foraging fires of creation burn hellishly above the heights of God, apart from the finitude alloted to us. For Blake they did. Can I really manipulate beauty from this?

  20. Those are two great comments y’all. Really enjoying your insights on this poem.

    Any last thoughts on “tyger, tyger” from anybody out there?

    Soon I’ll be putting up a new poem. Any suggestions guys?

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