General Information

“The Tyger” is a poem by the English poet William Blake. It was published as part of his collection Songs of Experience in 1794. It is one of Blake’s best known and most analyzed poems. The Cambridge Companion to William Blake (2003) calls it “the most anthologized poem in English.”

Most modern anthologies maintain Blake’s choice of the archaic spelling “tyger”. It was already “slightly archaic” when he wrote the poem, he spelled it as “tiger” elsewhere, and many of his poetic effects “depended on subtle differences of punctuation and of spelling.” Thus, his choice of “tyger” has usually been interpreted as being for effect, perhaps to render an “exotic or alien quality of the beast”, or because it’s not really about a “tiger” at all, but a metaphor.

Whether one reads the tyger as literal or metaphoric, the tyger is “fearsome” and a negative force. The question asked near the poem’s conclusion “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (l. 20) suggests a question concern God’s creation of this malovent and destructive force.

Instructors’ Teaching Experience

I teach this poem in conjuction with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen since chapter five of the graphic novel is titled “Fearful Symmetry.” My students are more often than not unfamiliar with Christian symbolism and often ignorant to the symbolism of the Lamb. But, once the relationship between the maker of the Tyger and the Lamb is made and the question of maker’s motive for creating the Tyger is raised, the discussion is spectacular. [LeDon Sweeney,]