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Compare “The Lamb” and “The Tyger”, focussing particularly on how ideas of innocence and experience are explored. ‘The Lamb’ from Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’ represents the idea of purity that is woven throughout the ‘Innocence’ collection. His poem ‘The Tyger’ is in the compilation of ‘Experience’ poems which offer a darker perspective on life after learning. These two poems have many similarities and contrasting ideas; Blake depicts these two creatures in such a way that relates them to the sections they appear in and highlights their differences through language.
The structure of ‘The Lamb’ is two even ten line stanzas – one stanza a question, the other an answer – consisting of rhyming couplets. The rhyme scheme helps to create the song-like characteristic; it also makes the verse flow like a hymn which coincides with the religious symbolism. The language used is reminiscent of the Bible, this adds to the theme of religion. ‘The Tyger’ also uses rhyming couplets within its six quatrains; this and the steady metre (trochaic tetrameter) create a natural rhythm which could be interpreted as the ‘hammering’ of the creator or the beating of the heart.
This language also reminds me of biblical verses, particularly the New Testament and the book of Revelation.
By almost directly copying the first stanza as the last stanza in ‘The Tyger’ the question asked is implanted in the reader’s mind and the ideas re-enforced. The contrast of the phrases ‘burning bright’ and ‘forests of the night’ could be metaphorically suggesting that the tiger is like a forest fire, the only thing burning ‘bright’ through a dark forest which all animals fear.
The reiteration of the rhetorical question:
‘What immortal hand or eye/ (Could/Dare) frame thy fearful symmetry’ accentuates the question of who the tiger’s creator was. Also by replacing the word ‘could’ with ‘dare’ it asks if it is possible that someone has the power to create the tiger, why would they dare to do so? The half-rhyme of ‘eye’ and ‘symmetry’ helps to heighten the attention given to this uncertainty as all the other couplets are complete rhymes. The same issue is also raised in ‘The Lamb’ when the narrator asks the lamb ‘Dost thou know who made thee?’ but this suggests the lamb is naive and unknowing of its creator whereas in ‘The Tyger’ it is the narrator who is unsure.
The idea of both creators being God raises a fundamental issue for religion, why would a benevolent God create a creature of such darkness? ‘Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’ it seems impossible that these two very different animals, one the symbol of purity the other the symbol of suffering, could both be created by the ‘meek’ designer described in the second stanza of ‘The Lamb’. How can the God of ‘Innocence’ simultaneously be the God of ‘Experience’? Lambs are notoriously connected to religious ideas particularly relating to Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’, an icon of virtuousness. Jesus (as the lamb) sacrificed himself to take away the sins of the world. Lambs denote a gentle animal, harmless to other creatures and humans, whereas tigers are dominant predators that strike fear.
I believe ‘The Lamb’ is in the ‘Innocence’ collection, because of the aforementioned heavy connotations linked to lambs. Also a lamb, being a baby sheep, has yet to experience life. It is repeatedly described as ‘Little’ which emphasises this idea. Another method Blake uses to make the lamb appear innocent in comparison to the tiger is by the use of semantic fields. In ‘The Lamb’ the words used are natural and not synthetic/man-made for example, ‘stream’, ‘mead’ and ‘vales’, things that are yet to ‘experience’ anything different from their natural form. ‘The Tyger’ also uses words related to nature, ‘forests’, ‘skies’ ‘stars’ however this opposes a more dominant semantic field of industrial creation, ‘hammer’, ‘chain’, ‘furnace’, and ‘anvil'(which interestingly is also a tool used in art).
The industrial semantic field relates contextually as this poem was written in 1793, amidst the Industrial Revolution which involved mechanisation, this was seen as technologically advancing however caused many negative social effects. Considering this ‘The Lamb’ could be seen as representing a simpler time when things were made by hand and ‘The Tyger’ could represent the shift of manufacturing demonstrating the bad social product of industry. Also the reference in ‘The Lamb’ to its wool being ‘clothing’ can be viewed as nature being exploited by man as we use it for our own means.
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