Tyger – A poem to music

by Adrian M. McGlinchey || Re-posted from original dated: September 18, 2020.

Image: Blake. W, (n.d). “The Tyger [Illustration]”, The British Library

Image: Blake. W, (n.d). “The Tyger [Illustration]”, The British Library

It’s 2020 now, and still I keep revisiting this. I knew the William Blake poem well from my high school years and my passion for the way Mister Blake put intense imagery into poetry has not died. I think Tangerine Dream did a great job of turning this poem into a song. The lyrics capture a sense of pure wonderment at the creation of nature and the universe. Whether one is spiritual or not, one would have to be as thick as a brick to not to at least be captivated by thoughts of what forces made the universe, the stars, and the animals to such an amazing design. With the opening words, “Tyger, Tyger burning bright in the forests of the night”, I sometimes imagine the Tyger not only as a majestic beast of the jungle or savannah, but as a constellation in the night sky, as there is also a line in the lyric that goes, “And when the stars threw down their spears and water’d Heaven with their tears, did He smile His work to see? Did He who made the Lamb make thee?” This could equally be a metaphor for the origins of the entire cosmos as well as about a species of animal. Great stuff… It sends a beautiful tingle down my spine.

The full lyrics to the poem/song are:

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, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & 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 water’d 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?


Blake. W, (n.d). “The Tyger [Illustration]”, The British Library, on GoogleSearch at URL: https://www.google.com/search?q=william+blake+tyger+illustration&client=firefox-b-d&sxsrf=ALeKk03r5LRY08KBhcBkcsWzfcfPAdilBA:1600353686737&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=3rT-GnL-o4Xw1M%252CJf6nWFtrjmpWpM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kR_Hg_aH6grCmRJY07kWgn8yW78yQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjO4oyItvDrAhUCcCsKHeodA7IQ9QF6BAgKEFg&biw=1552&bih=949#imgrc=QInFYjWpCkO7AM, Image detail, Accessed 18-sep-2020.

Poetry Foundation (n.d.). “The Tyger”, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43687/the-tyger, Lyrics, Accessed 18-Sep-2020.

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