The Tiger and the Lamb

You may notice that the few times I have written down my thoughts on weekly poems, I have not written about every weekly poem. This is because good art can speak for itself. All the poems I have posted express themselves and something about me and my choice without me commenting. Nevertheless, I am a writer, so I write about some of them I shall. Some I’ll have more to say than others.

Poems Seven and Eight are “The Tiger” and “The Lamb,” by William Blake, the former from Songs of Experience, the latter from Songs of Innocence.

I like them both, and am always drawn in by the opening lines of “The Tiger”:

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night

This has always been an evocative, primal poem to me; I chose simply because I like it, I like the way it flows and its rhythm. Furthermore, it and “The Lamb” ask a telling question. The question in “The Tiger” is:

Did he who made the lamb make thee?

And in the Lamb:

Dost thou know who made thee?

It is a question, for the Tiger is a brute force, pure might, strength, and known for violence. This is Shere Khan, who is willing even to attack a man-cub (but will only take men from behind). This is an animal that hunts alone. Contrasted to the Tiger’s “fearful symmetry” is the Lamb, who is little and has a “tender voice.” Lambs are known for being frolicksome and playful, a symbol of innocence.

The Lamb, in this poem, is reminded that it is a symbol of Innocence, of the One who died for the life of the world; and it is that One who made the Lamb. Did He, therefore, also make the Tiger? These two creatures are so different from each other; one reminds us of Death as sacrifice, the other of Death as destruction. Yet, somehow, He who made the Lamb also made the Tiger.

Finally, I also chose these because of the John Tavener choral arrangements made of these poems, as recorded by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen on the album Ikon of Light. YouTube seems to lack a performance of “The Tiger”, but here’s a link to “The Lamb” to close. It’s not as good as the one on the album, but it’s not bad. And I still can’t get YouTube stuff to embed properly.


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