The Lamb Vs. The Tyger Essay, Research Paper
Children embody the very essence of innocence. They see the world through virgin eyes, hear life with fresh ears and create the world with a simple mind and pure heart. It is about the only time in a person’s life when the weight of sin, corruption, egotism, and hatred are not blurring their vision and thoughts. It is the only time a person is completely free. But this state of innocence becomes separated and exiled once experience has tainted the soul. William Blake conveys this theory in his work, Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.
In Songs of Innocence, a childlike vision is conveyed through William Blake’s clever use of speakers with their varying perspectives and questions. In this first set of poems, Blake often uses a child as the speaker, questioning the ways of the world. The atmosphere is bright and cheerful. For all of the purity that is conveyed through out the poems, there is an underlying current of indignation at the way the corrupt institutions are tainting the souls of the children. Even though the children see the realities of the world they live in, their innocence does not allow them to feel or express their resentment.
In the Songs of Experience, Blake continues his contrast of the two states of the human soul with the second state, experience. Just as Blake used children to represent innocence, he uses adults as the victims of experience. These poems show the inhumanity and cruelty under the surface of civilization. They show how humans are constricted and laden with despair, that the institutions of society have lain upon them. One of the most prevalent institutions of this time period that influences humans is the church and organized religion. The best examples of the contrasting states of innocence and experience, especially with the influence of religion, are represented in The Lamb and The Tyger.
The Lamb is a very pure and wholesome poem, just like the innocence of a child. It asks the question, who made thee? But it also answers that question, God. The poem gives the impression that God is generous and loving. He created the Lamb (child), giving him clothing, food and a tender voice. The child is called by God’s name, which is lamb. Possibly implying that God and child are one, for in true innocence, God is there. This is religion at its purist form. God is found inside the individual, not the organization. It has not being contaminated by human institutions yet.
The Tyger is the reverse state of the soul, once experience has become a part of the picture. This is a powerful and formidable poem. The tiger, itself, is a dangerous but beautiful creature, that could possibly be representing an adult, just as the lamb was a child. Again, this poem also asks the question, who made thee? It questions, who or what God dare to make such a beast? Blake never states that it is God, but rather an immortal hand. It leads the reader to believe that this is possible a different God or one that has been altered from His original childlike innocence portrayed in The Lamb. The imagery used in the poem creates a picture of God as blacksmith: “seize the fire”, “twist the sinews”, “hammer”, “chain”, “furnace”, and “anvil”. This is no longer the same God that created the lamb to have someone after his own image; this God is using hard manual labor to create a beast of “fearful symmetry”. The poem asks,” Did he who make the Lamb make thee?” It might be the same God that made the lamb, but He is not the same. Humans in organized religion have tainted this God. He is no longer a loving and pure God, but a hard and judgmental one.
The state of innocence, once lost through experience, is never possible to regain. As in The Lamb, God is one in the same with the child. They both embody the same innocence. He became a child. But in The Tyger, man has corrupted what they believe to be God so He can fit into their world of experience. This God might be the tiger’s (man’s) creator, but he is no longer one with him like He is the lamb (child). Once innocence is lost, it’s not possible to revive it to what it once was in childhood. Nothing lasts forever, even innocence in this “best of all possible worlds.”
Blake, William. The Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The Norton Anthology
World Masterpieces. Ed. Sarah Lawall. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New