The Tyger

Today may be a slower day than normal in PapoWorld.  There is much remembering of MLK Jr. to be done, much community service to be done under Obama’s national See-How-Baller-My-Army-Is event, much snow to avoid in NYC and…probably the only real constraint, Logic Games to solve.

So we at P-World decided to offer pensiveness and rich imagery: William Blake’s The Tyger.  I like the questioning of the origin of things and the duplicity of creating predator and prey, good and evil (?), even ‘fearful symmetry’ perhaps.  Its cadence evokes a jungle-like, muscular prowl akin to a, well,  tyger.

Please feel encouraged to comment and discuss.

The Tyger by William Blake

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?


5 Responses to “The Tyger”

  1. Sara Says:

    Poetryy. V. Nice. Interesting one, I’ve never read it before. Where did you find it? I see the questions regarding the origin of things, but why do you think he calls it ‘fearful symmetry’?

  2. Jebediah Says:

    perfection that is scary?

  3. papoworld Says:

    I put it in quotes because I thought those two words might be referring to the very theme I was walking with: that its duality (it representing nature and life and indeed, being created by the creator, while also being capable of such violence and brutal killing as a predator) is manifest in its ‘fearful symmetry’. Almost as though the tyger has a fearful symmetry but he also symbolizes one as well, the fearful symmetry, or duality, of being both natural/beautiful while also being such a fierce killer.
    So…I hesitate to define exactly what the phrase means, but it spoke to me both as illustrating the tyger’s side of the duality (opposed by lamb) AND his manifestation of the duality. This double manifestation becomes clear when we think of the symmetry of his stripes. That symmetry arises out of the need for him to camoflage in the forest (so nature MAKES him into this surpreme killer) yet, it is only a camoflage. For me it invokes a sense of mask-ness, or at least that WITHIN the lines there may be a softer side, or even, the lion is incarcerated by his killer-making stripes…more on this idea of duality relating to or coming from nature.
    I don’t want to expand this too far into a conversation about good and evil and whether they exist, but:
    I think the case for “no” is strongest when discussing animals, whereas with humans, I still feel as though “evil” is a Christian word relating to things influenced by the devil. But, I do acknowledge that some may use the word “evil” to refer to behavior that exhibits severe disregard for humanity (Creedo). As in, I feel like a lot of “evil” figures are probably egomaniacs corrupted by power or extremely selfish, pragmatic, and driven…perhaps with this component of serious disregard for humanity. But “born evil”? NO WAY. I hate the idea. It is a shortcut to thinking (to understanding one’s opponent) and affords tremendous moral licentiousness (how many governments have granted themselves greater license to do harm on the basis of the “evil”, uncompromising irrationality of their enemies? USA and Israel quickly come to mind).

    I think our sensibilities tend to be shocked and our connection to our moral order shaken when we witness individuals who share neither. There is a temptation to neatly explain or disregard the extent of their committment as being ‘bad’ in the absolute sense. (Particularly with 9/11, this country did NOT want to think about whether anything we’ve done, openly or covertly, in the last century might have created enemies. We simply wrote them off as pure evil to be destroyed. Meanwhile, Israel’s invasion of Gaza (and the key: our diplomatic support of it at the UN) may well create another 9/11 for us as people become radicalized. No one is born a terrorist. No one. (I’ll allow that some can become terrorists (itself a problematic label) without US action, of course. But then we’re talking about the pernicious effects of religion on man. Still, not intrinsic evil.)

  4. papoworld Says:

    @Jebediah Yeah, the innate order of his being. Both the symmetry of his stripes and in the larger sense as well, his body. He has the huge head for roaring and for biting but his long muscular body houses and empowers his destructive limbs. That symmetry is frightening, despite its intrinsic order and very natural origin and use.

    I should get a Tyger tat…

  5. Jebediah Says:

    Or a Lyger…

    Take the Mongols under Ghegis Khan…perfect symmetry in form and function, but also wildly frightening.

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