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, 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 watered 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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  1. What’s the overall vibe of this poem? How does it feel to you?
  2. In this poem, the speaker is asking a tiger (or “Tyger!”) who created it. Who do you think created the tiger of this poem? Who do you think the speaker believes created the tiger?
  3. Why does the speaker describe the tiger as “burning bright”?
  4. The repetition of a word at the beginning of a sentence of phrase is called anaphora. Blake uses anaphora throughout “The Tyger.” What effects does this have on how you receive the poem?
  5. “The Tyger” is one of the most famous poems in English. It also has one of the most famous awkward rhymes: eye/symmetry. It’s not just that the sounds of these words don’t match in contemporary ears, but they are dissimilar (unsymmetrical) in number of syllables, and the meter of the poem encourages us to hear the last syllable of (“sym/me/try”) more emphatically than we normally pronounce the word. How could you navigate these tensions in your recitation?
  6. If you could ask questions of a nonhuman entity in your life (e.g. an animal, a plant, an appliance, a body of water), what would you choose? What important questions would you ask? Write a poem composed of these questions.

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A close reading of The Tyger


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