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Compare Blake’s The Lamb with “The Tyger

Page history last edited by seda 15 years, 2 months ago

The Lamb by William Blake

It's a poem that portrays three main Romantic themes: childhood, nature and spiritual truth.  I would like to write mostly on the spiritual truth of the poem: 

"Little Lamb, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?"

This poem begins with a child  asking a lamb, "who made thee?"  Blake leaves no room for speculation.  "Who made thee?" is a question that all of us have asked. The question, of course, has taken different forms and has been the subject of philosophy since Socrates.  Blake would answer that a creature could only exist because a creator has made them .  In this poem, Blake leaves no other answer but that somebody made everything.  It's a personal question, "who made thee?"  Who is the who? It must be somebody.  It can't be chance.  It can't be an impersonal being.  It must be a person who created the lamb and a little boy, according to Blake in this poem:

"Little Lamb I'll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a  Lamb;

He is meek & he is mild,

He became a little child;"

  What a beautiful analogy to the  Christanity. Blake affirms with the Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, that the God of the world and everything in it, who "Gave thee life & bid thee feed . . . Gave thee clothing of delight; Softest clothing wooly bright;"  is the Lamb.  Christ was called the Lamb many times in the New Testament "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain . . . Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"  Anybody who is familiar at all with the Old Testament realizes that the Lamb (or Christ/Messiah) would take away the sins of His people by dying on a cross.  This small poem gives us, not only, a great depth of knowledge about how the Old and New Testaments fit together, but how Blake really knew the scriptures.  We can  find great comfort in The Lamb because it points all of us to the Creator, who has given us everything, "life. . . feed . . . clothing."  All of us should be just as thankful as Blake.


The Lamb

Subject and theme: Lamb is symbol of suffering innocence and Jesus Christ.

Key image: The Lamb as seen through the eyes of a child.

Technical features:

  • Repeated questions, directed to the lamb, but easier to answer than those addressed to the tiger;
  • answers given in the second stanza;
  • idyllic setting of "stream and mead"
  • contrasts with "forests of night" (exotic and dangerous) in The Tyger;
  • suggests Biblical book of Psalms especially the 23rd psalm, with its "green pastures";
  • as well as making The Lamb, God becomes like The Lamb: Jesus is both the "Good shepherd" and "The Lamb of God". Like the Passover lamb, He is sacrificed to redeem others.
The Tyger

Subject and theme: Tiger as a symbol of God's power in creation

Key images: The tiger as seen by Blake's poetic imagination: "fearful symmetry"; "burning bright...fire"; "hammer...chain...furnace...anvil".

Technical features:

  • Repeated (rhetorical) questions; contrast with meekness of The Lamb;
  • Tyger is addressed directly;
  • simple metre and rhyme;
  • incantatory rhythm (like casting a spell);
  • creation like an industrial process (fourth stanza).

Both  Pagan and Christian symbols are used in these poems "The Lamb" and "The Tiger", which can cause confusion when read at face value, and we will have to use what we know about Blake in order to make an intelligent statement about the meaning of his poems. Are they really just a contrast between two animals, or is there a deeper meaning behind the symbolism?

"The Lamb" and "The Tiger" were both written by William Blake, who was a poet living in the 18th and 19th centuries. These poems, though they appear to be written within a short time of one another, are dramatically different in their content, tone, and overall theme. Blake does, however, maintain at least some of the same stylistic elements in each of the two poems.

Simply by comparing the titles of the two works, it is easy to see why they would be dramatic opposites of one another. "The Lamb" immediately conveys an image of innocence, while its counterpart communicates a sense of dominance and fear. It is most likely not coincidental that, in the animal kingdom, the tiger would almost certainly prey on the lamb if given the chance. Blake attempts to communicate this in his work.

"The Lamb" is shorter in terms of meter than "The Tiger".They each have a consistent rhyme scheme that could be used in song form if necessary. "The Tiger" has twice the amount of stanzas as that of its counterpart, but is just four full lines longer in terms of actual length.


The tones of the these poems are drastically different. In "The Lamb", Blake's word choice is peaceful and almost comforting as he speaks of the subject of the poem. He begins the first stanza by asking a series of questions,thus personifying the Lamb as a creature of cpable of giving a rational  response.He speaks of the Lamb as  if  he is a created being that did not come into existence  by some random,irrational, and unknown cause.

"The Tiger" also uses a form of religious symbolism, but in a much different fashion. In this work, Blake uses a more indirect path to affirming a creator. He refers to God as the blacksmith, asking much the same questions as he did in "The Lamb", as regards creation. He wonders "What immortal hand or eye/ could form thy fearful symmetry?" Again, he acknowledges that there must have been a creator, but instead of drawing the correlation of Christ as he did in the work previously mentioned, he chooses a more indirect means by which to communicate his belief.


When looking at these poems, it is very easy to simply take them at face value and see them as doing little more than illustrating the startling differences between the two animals about which Blake wrote. However, upon further analysis, it becomes clear that we are dealing with a much deeper, more significant issue, especially in light of Blake's obvious religious beliefs. There are elements of personal creation (God as identified in "The Lamb") as well as Greek Deistic concepts (The Blacksmith in "The Tiger"). Blake is perhaps trying to illustrate the paradox between the different aspects of the creator God ad the deistic God. (That is, a God that is merely a creator and not personal).


While there is a degree of ambiguity to Blake's work, it is fairly safe to say that the message of his poems were fairly obvious. In a way, he is asking the same questions many of us find ourselves asking as regards the creation of this universe.How did we get here?What purpose do we serve?Blake is attempting to prove by the complexity of the creatures of this world that there is indeed a creator God and that we are not simply a product of circumstance.

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