The Tyger is an illustrated poem written by William Blake, it was published in 1794 in a collection of poems, written by Blake, called 'Songs of Experience'.
William Blake was an English poet, painter and engraver. He was born in London in 1757 and spent much of his early life as an apprentice engraver to the print-maker James Basire. Blake was a highly skilled artist and he experimented with styles, combining poetry with images, much like we can see in The Tyger. Blake is also well known for his radical political views, something you might get an impression of from the poem. You can learn more about Blake on the British Library's website.
The Tyger is part of a wider collection published by Blake. Happily, the British Library have a digitised version of this collection from 1923 so you can flick through the pages of his work and see close up all the details of his work.
They have also digitised his notebook where you can see his early sketches and occasional scribbles lines of poetry. We think it's amazing that we can read through his personal notebook which dates back to the 18th century!
We should probably explain why the word Tyger is spelt differently from how we're used to. That's because the poem was written in the 18th Century at a time when the English language was still developing. When Blake was alive I sounds were often written with a Y.
This poem can be utilised for teaching students about literature, poetry and art.
The metaphors used in the poem and the possible interpretations are more closely explored in the British Library's introduction to The Tyger.
The Tyger is a companion poem to The Lamb, also written by Blake. You can see the texts from The Tyger and The Lamb alongside each other to allow for easier comparison between the two sister poems.
This work is a good basis from which to teach students about the use of metaphors, the role of illustration in literature and the different possible interpretations of some poetry.
- ‘The Tyger’ is one of a collection of poems from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. Wherever this poem is encountered it delights, worthy of the scrutiny that it is given both as a literary work and a work of art in its own right. William Blake was an artist, poet, mystic, visionary and radical thinker. Working at a time of great social and political change, his work explores the tensions between the human passions and the repressive nature of social and political conventions. In Songs of Innocence and of Experience, perhaps his most famous collection of poems, he investigates, as he put it in the subtitle, 'the two contrary states of the human soul'. How was the work produced? Songs of Innocence and of Experience is regarded as both a visual and literary work of art. Blake invented a new way of printing, designing the work in reverse with varnish on metal plates, which were then etched with acid to produce relief printing surfaces; these were printed in brown ink, and the prints were coloured by hand. Only a small number of copies were made, and sold privately to friends and collectors. Are the Songs directed at children? Though Blake stated that children could understand his work as well as, or better than, adults, this is rather a comment on how children understand things directly and without the clouded perceptions that derive from the compromises required by adult life. The songs are specifically ‘of’ and not ‘for’ innocence and experience. How do the Songs relate to previous literature? The work echoes the rhythms and forms of popular 18th-century children’s poetry and ballads. However, much of the verse directed at middle-class children at this time contained simple didactic messages, and Blake deliberately avoids this type of dogmatic morality – instead many of the poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience contain unsettling ambiguities. Blake’s very particular spiritual visions, which underlie all his mature writings, include reactions to philosophers such as Emanuel Swedenborg. What are the Songs about? Despite the simple rhythms and rhyming patterns and the images of children, animals and flowers, the Songs are often troubling, argumentative or satirical, and reflect Blake’s deeply held political beliefs and spiritual experience. Blake’s vision embraces radical subjects such as poverty, child labour and abuse, the repressive nature of state and church, as well as right of children to be treated as individuals with their own desires. Many of the poems in Songs of Experience respond to counterparts in Songs of Innocence.
- The Tyger is an illustrated poem written by William Blake, it was published in 1794 in a collection of poems, written by Blake, called 'Songs of Experience'.