A Comparison of Poetic Devices in “The Lamb” and “The Tyger”
William Blake, the poet who created the collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience, is held in renown to this day as one of the most important poets of his time. Two of his most famous poems, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” represent very different visions. When read together, as it could be argued they are meant to be, they create a complex world-view that acknowledges the existence of both good and evil in the world, and encourages readers to question the origin of both and how they might be interrelated.
Blake’s poem “The Lamb,” from Songs of Innocence, uses the persona of a child to emphasize the theme of innocence throughout the poem. In the second stanza, near the end of the poem, the poet makes this clear in the line “I a child & thou a lamb” (17). The persona in “The Tyger” is left undefined. Although it can be assumed that the speaker is someone with more worldly knowledge based on the poem’s inclusion in the collection Songs of Experience, no direct acknowledgement of the age of the speaker is given. The uncertainty that this elicits from the reader as to who is speaking reflects the uncertainty of the subject. It’s clear who made the Lamb. It’s less clear who made the Tyger.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Interestingly, both poems utilize similar poetic devices, although to different ends. Repetition is used in both “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” in different ways. “The Lamb” repeats the line “Dost thou know who made thee” (2, 10) twice in the first stanza prior to giving a definitive answer to the question. The second stanza also uses repetition, with both the first two lines, “Little Lamb I’ll tell thee” (11, 12), and the last two, “Little Lamb God bless thee” (19, 20) being used twice as well. These lines, particularly when viewed alone without the context of the rest of the poem, serve to highlight the fact that both the question itself and its answer are straightforward and simple. God made the lamb. Repetition is used in “The Tyger” as well, but instead of highlighting naive certainty, it has the opposite effect. The first stanza of “The Tyger,” which read, “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” (1-4) are repeated almost verbatim in the final stanza to close out the poem as well, the one difference being the replacement of the word “Could” (4) in the first stanza with “Dare” (24) in the last, emphasizing the uncertainty of the Tyger’s origins.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Apostrophe is another poetic device common to both poems. Both the “Little Lamb” (1) and the “Tyger burning bright” (1) are animals that cannot actually be spoken to as the two personas do. Despite this similarity, the way in which the two poems’ personas speak to the animals in question is quite different. In “The Lamb” there is a certain level of certainty that is not present in “The Tyger.” In the first, the poet questions, “Does thou know who made thee” (2), but later goes on to clarify, “Little Lamb I’ll tell thee: / He is called by thy name” (12-13), a direct allusion to Jesus Christ, or God. In “The Tyger,” a similar question is posed near the beginning of the poem: “What immortal hand or eye, / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” (3-4). Unlike “The Lamb,” however, this poem from Songs of Experience does not offer a concrete answer. The final two lines of the poem repeat, nearly word for word, this same question: “What immortal hand or eye, / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” (23-24). The question is left unanswered. Unlike the child’s persona who accepts, with appropriate innocence, the simple answer that God has created the “wooly” (8), “tender” (9) creature, the unnamed persona in “The Tyger” is unable to come to a conclusion as to who created the beast.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Not only is the language used to describe the Tyger with its “fearful symmetry” (4) and “deadly terrors” (16) very different from the naive and optimistic word choice in “The Lamb,” but even the descriptions of its assumed creator are significantly different. As the creator of the Lamb, God is “meek” (15) and “mild” (15). The Tyger’s maker, however, has “dread hand” (12) and “dread grasp” (15) that allow its creator to “its deadly terrors clasp” (16). It’s clear that Blake has misgivings about attributing the creation of such a deadly creature to what, in a state of innocence rather than experience, he conceives of as a benign and merciful God. The fact that he makes a direct connection between the two poems in asking “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (20) leads the reader to consider how the idea of God changes based on whether the world is viewed from the point of view of an innocent child, or a speaker with more experience and knowledge. The question, however, is left unresolved. This speaks to the challenge of accepting the world, and the acts of good and evil associated with living in it, as one entity created by one God. It also forces the reader to acknowledge that through experience of life, experience of evil is inevitable.
Blake, William. “The Tyger” & “The Lamb.” Songs of Innocence and of Experience (copy Z).
London: Catherine & William Blake, 1789-1794. Retrieved from: