by William Blake
The Tyger Theme of Literature and Writing
When a piece of literature is about literature in general, things can get a little tricky. What it means for a poem to be about poetry is that its content somehow reflects on the process or craft of its creation. Take, for example, a song about writing a song: "Ohhhh, it’s so hard to write a soooong, about how much I loooooove yooouu, oooh ooh," etc. It’s a song about writing a song. In the same way, any poem could be about the process of writing a poem or artistic creation in general. In one way, "The Tyger" is a poem about writing a certain kind of poetry. Blake is very interested in visionary poetry, the kind that communicates deep truths about the universe, often concerning the divine or a higher power. Knowing anything about these subjects is really hard, so "The Tyger" can be read as a poem about how hard it is. If we think of the Tyger as the divine or as the knowledge of the divine, and the creator ("he") as a poet, then the poem is about the speaker questioning how a poet could ever "frame" or possess the knowledge of the divine, let alone write about it in a poem.
Questions About Literature and Writing
- How would you write an essay about how hard it is to write an essay? What would it say about you? What would it say about writing essays in general?
- Here’s a bit of a brain teaser: if "The Tyger" is a poem about writing about the divine, then didn’t writing it mean Blake was in fact writing about the divine, or just about writing about it?
- If one reads this as a poem about poetry, what significance does it have for the rest of Blake’s poetry, which deals with similar topics?
Chew on This
Blake’s poem is about the difficulties of saying anything at all about the divine, let alone conveying some sort of universal truth about it; in doing so, Blake makes a postmodern statement about the limitations of art in general.
The Tyger represents the perfect visionary poem – the quintessential linguistic rendition of the divine; however, the "he," or the visionary poet, is never able to completely capture it.