11 Feb 2014

Tiger Tiger, The Tyger by William Blake Essay Analysis IGCSE


Get an A* analysis of William Blake's poem 'The Tiger' ('The Tyger') below the full text of the poem.

TIGER, tiger, 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 water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Blake’s poem ‘Tyger Tyger’ is addressed to the tiger, which symbolises the devil*, and questions what kind of God ‘could’ ‘dare’** to ‘frame’ something so ‘fearful’. In this poem, Blake explores dangerous ambition (hubris). The first type is in the devil trying to overthrow God. We can see the second in the imagery of human technology which challenges God's creative power. This is also a poem about the problem of evil. Blake seems in fear and awe of the devil, and maybe a little bit fearful about God too. Why would He create something so monstrous?


This paragraph deals with the first point from the introduction above: *which symbolises the devil

Throughout the poem, Blake uses the semantic fields of hell. In the second stanza, he says: ‘distant deeps’ close to ‘burnt the fire’, which suggests hell. This adds to words like ‘furnace’ which links to inferno. In the first and final stanzas, we have more images of ‘burning’, but here it is linked to the word ‘bright’. This word is positive and contrasts with ‘night’. This burning is hell, but it is also a light in the darkness, which is usually how Christ is represented. Blake twists the image of hellish light as something strangely beautiful. Blake's description of the Tyger’s ‘fearful symmetry’, disrupts the traditional understanding of symmetry as perfect, by linking it to the word fearful. It's an oxymoron which shows the strange contradiction of his fascination with this evil creature. This may link to the myth of the devil as Lucifer. The most beautiful of the angels, misused his god-given power and started a war in heaven to overthrow God. The angel of light (Lucifer) was defeated and cast down into hell.

This paragraph deals with the second point from the introduction above: **what kind of God ‘could’ ‘dare’

The poem is about the devil but it also is a meditation on the nature of God. Blake never mentions God explicitly. He portrays him almost as an artist, using the word ‘art’, ‘symmetry’ and ‘frame’. He also adds the image of a blacksmith: ‘furnace’, ‘hammer’ ‘anvil’ and ‘chain’. He uses human concepts to get to grips with the power of God and wonders at what he’s capable of. We can see this in the word ‘could’ in the first stanza which is questioning how God has the ability to do such things. The rhetorical questions add to the sense of mystery: ‘what immortal’? This question is never answered.


The poem is full of antithesis: god and the devil, heaven and hell, darkness and light, art, medicine and technology. The 'tiger' is made by 'he who made the Lamb', which is a symbol for Christ ('Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world', etc).

Blake considers the problem of how an all-powerful God who 'could' make something so awesome, 'would dare' to create evil. In a way this is a poem about the unsolvable problem of evil, which may be another reason this is a poem of questions, not answers. Blake refers to the fall of Lucifer in the second and fifth stanzas. He talks about the hand that would 'dare seize the fire', which may refer to God daring to create the devil, but also the devil daring to overthrow God. Both, 'on wings aspire'. The clearest references to war in heaven are in the fifth stanza where Blake says the 'stars cast down their spears' and 'watered heaven with their tears'. 'Spears' suggests violence and contrasts with 'tears' which is a sad mood and shows the mixture of violence and sadness that comes with any civil war. 

The poem has the feel of a hymn, with its taut, regular structure, lists and repetitions, especially in the first and last stanzas which feel like a chorus. What's interesting there is the one word different in each. 'Could' becomes 'dare': as if Blake is asking first about the power of God (could), secondly about his audacity (dare): or the boldness of something totally good creating something totally evil. Yet, evil as it is, Blake seems fascinated by its power.

You could write more in this essay, particularly in the imagery of technology and medicine that describes the creation of the tiger. I focussed quite heavily on an interpretation of the tiger as devil. You could equally focus on the literal tiger, if you prefer.
All interpretations are my own opinion. Any interpretation is possible, provided you can back it up.


The author, , is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.