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Practical Criticism:

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Introduction

English Literature Stage II Romanticism EN2 Practical Criticism: "The Tyger" William Blake Blake's poem "The Tyger" - written somewhere between 1785 and 1789 - was first published in Songs of Innocence and Experience. These two interconnected books of poetry were intended to show the "two contrary states of the human soul. Appropriately enough "The Tyger" appeared in the second book, Experience, and has as its natural counter part "The Lamb" in Innocence. "The Tyger" as a poem is a perennial international favourite. It has been more frequently and widely published than any other poem in English. The diction and rhyme scheme of both poems suggest they were written for children which is ostensibly the intended audience for the Songs. However the choice of words and cadence works on far deeper levels than just creating a palatable nursery-rhyme rhythm for children. The lively trochaic metre, aswell as suggesting a nursery rhyme, could be likened to a chant or invocation. The repetition of "Tyger! Tyger!" with its double exclamation marks support this idea. It gives the whole poem a quasi-religious tone which is maintained - albeit ambiguously - throughout the poem. Simultaneously the exclaimed repetition of "Tyger! Tyger!" could be seen as an awed whisper, a terrified cry or an oath of some kind. The immediate stressed syllables at the start of the foot (Ty - ger! ...read more.

Middle

The fact that Blake comes full circle in the poem and repeats the fist verse substituting the word "could" for the more sinister "dare" indicates to me that there are no easy answers to any of the questions the poem's narrator raises. Although some spectators, including Robert Graves, see its openness as a fault and consider it somehow incomplete and confused the fact that it underwent numerous redrafts and excisions by Blake suggest that everything in it, including the variations in tense, is deliberate. The ostensibly simple, child-like diction of Songs, specifically "The Tyger" , belies the complexity of the ideas behind it. The exact nature of these ideas is difficult to determine, after all it is often said that Blake wrote the poem in a quasi-schizophrenic interlude. From an historicism standpoint the meaning of "The Tyger" could be related to the ferocity of revolutionary France. However as Blake was in support of the French Revolution and its tenets of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" I think the poem is too ambiguous to bear any direct relation to those events, especially considering the bloodshed of "The Terror" had not begun. As the poem is present in what was apparently a children's book of instructive poetry one could see it as confirmation of the mighty power of god the Creator however, given Blake's unorthodox religious beliefs and disdain for the given order of Christian religion, this is unlikely. ...read more.

Conclusion

A storm that occurred because Satan used his own powers to create dissent within Adam. As a result Man broke away from both the Old Testament god and Satan, as did the tyger. However the tyger is not a mirror image of Man in his fallen state but a vision of what Man could be in his exalted state. Where the tyger provoke pitying tears and spears from the stars the "meek..and..mild" Lamb of Innocence attains blessings from god. Whereas the lamb is a child to who "Gave thee life" the tiger has broken free into a mature fiery revolutionary splendour - The Tyger is a symbol of the "Dionysiac Principle" - the hedonistic urge to be free and follow ones productive animal instincts. This partially tallies with the popular psychoanalytic reading of the poem: the tyger is the ultimate embodiment of the Id liberated from the command of the Urizen the ultra-rational superego. The sexual implications inherent in a psychoanalytic reading - although present within the symbol, mystery, potency, and (lustful?) heat of the Tyger and within the pubertal development of childhood lamb to predatory tiger -unfortunately have no space within the 1,500 words allowed here. G.Gulati. October 2000 1 In fact Blake excised the too emotionally loaded word "cruel" from his initial draft of the poem, probably to maintain the readers objectivity. I think the intimations of the word did not fit easily with the meanings of the poem whereas "dread", "fearful" etc. were valid in their context. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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