One of my favorite volumes in our home library is Williams Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. These were orignally published as two complementary works but are often found nicely combined. Aside from the poetry, which is excellent, the reason I love this edition is because it includes Blake’s etching plate prints.

In addition to the literary works, Blake was a talented artist. He used a reverse etching technique which produced beautiful, full colored prints. These prints would be of the poem text, illuminated by illustrations and imagery from the poems themselves. This is breathtaking and lends so many more layers to the meaning of the poems.

Although it is the most well-known of his works, “The Tyger” has always fascinated me. It may be my predilection for anything feline, but the language he uses, and the rhythm he sets, creates a wonderful dichotomy. It is sing-songy like a nursery rhyme, but speaks to a deeper philosophical quandary. As a companion piece to “The Lamb”, he is questioning the subjects (Lamb and Tyger) as to what god made them, and could it really be the same god that crafted them both? Could the same creator make such antipodal creatures?

And let us not forget, a piece of writing so devious that makes your brain try to force a rhyme between “eye” and “symmetry”; every… damn… time.


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

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


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