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Thread: Heresy in Tyger! Tyger!

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Heresy in Tyger! Tyger!

    I have been trying to memorize Tyger! Tyger! by William Blake. The second-to-last verse goes:

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile, his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


    Do I detect a bit of heterodoxy? Surely the Lamb was begotten, not made? Surely Blake would have known this?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    kev67 I am trying to understand heterodoxy but without any success. I looked it up still do not get it, Are you able to explain a bit more?
    About the lamb I do not see the difference between begotten and made.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    Interesting, I don't know much about how Christians would've read it then (or now) but to me it always just seemed like he was literally talking about a lamb (and so "made" was appropriate) relative to the aggressive/predatory tiger. The idea of the lamb being symbolic of Christ, or a reference to him wasn't lost on me, but the contrast between the natural animals seemed to be the immediately significant aspect of the poem to me (with the religious angle pointedly lying there for the overly-valuing-of-meekness members of the pious readership to chew on). But kev67 has me wondering if Blake really was being outrageous in the eyes of some with this.
    Last edited by billl; 01-15-2013 at 03:14 AM.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    'Lamb' was written with a capital letter, at least in the book I read it in, which signifies Christ. However, I noticed 'he' was not written with a capital 'H', which is usually is if referring to God.

    Cacian, heterodoxy is just a fancy word for heresy. The difference between 'begotten' and 'made' is important to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. When Emperor Constantine decided to adopt Christianity as the state religion in 325, he first had to hold a council to sort out an argument of the nature of the Jesus Christ. The followers of Arius believed God had made Christ, like he had made everything and everyone else. The followers of St Alexander did not like this, because that would have put Christ in a subordinate position, and in some way reintroduce polytheism. St Alexander's side won, so in the Nicean Creed, it says:

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

    An updated version of the Nicean Creed is recited when you go to Sunday service.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Blake probably wrote "made" because "begotten" wouldn't fit with the meter. The Christian/Biblical allusions in The Tyger/The Lamb and throughout the Songs of Innocence/Experience are well documented. Blake had a very Jungian view on religion and Christianity, basically seeing Jesus as an analogy to the poet/creator/storyteller/allegorist, whom was the real "God in man." For him, the OT God (whom he associated with "Urizen" in his allegory) was more frequently used in society as a symbol of oppression, a means by which those in power controlled everyone else. In his early works he crafted Orc to represent passion/emotion as a revolutionary force against Urizen, but his focus eventually shifted to Los, creative/poetic imagination, as the more lasting form of revolution against such oppression. His Songs are as allegorical as his later work, but done in a much lighter verse form. The Tyger is probably studied so much because it foreshadows a lot of the themes/imagery (especially industrialism) that would come to dominate his later work.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    ^This.

    The way I see the poem, particularly the last line is thus:

    The Tyger is seen as a force of destruction, an analogy for all the corruption that man has brought into the world. In a larger sense, the corruption of innocence by experience. However, as Blake illustrates quite often, if everything is created by God then the evil (the tyger) must have been created as well as the good (the lamb/Jesus).

    To label Blake a heretic is a bit oversimplified. However, he was constantly challenging the institutions and the dogma that the Church held in place - as seen in this poem.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    To label Blake a heretic is a bit oversimplified. However, he was constantly challenging the institutions and the dogma that the Church held in place - as seen in this poem.
    Very true. Blake was really that rare combination of visionary and philosopher, and his philosophy--which is similar to Jung's in its focus on archetypal human psychology--is embedded in his extremely dense visions. For Blake, Christianity/religion was something that was subsumed under his even deeper, more archetypal, philosophy, not something that was a unique subject unto itself that he was for/against. He loved the concept of Jesus, but hated the concept of the OT God and what society had made of it.

    FWIW, I also think there is a good deal of ambiguity in The Tyger, because while there is that implicit sense of something that's destructive and evil, there's also a sense of palpable awe. I don't think the Innocence/Experience duality of the Songs are necessarily about good/evil duality, as it's rarely that simple in Blake. He seems to think that both halves have their good and bad elements. Another early work that's a good illustration of his thoughts on this subject is The Book of Thel, which makes a good companion to The Songs, actually. In it, Thel inquires about the realm of generation where beings live and die, and ultimately decides to remain forever in The Valley of Har, ie, the land of the unborn. The central issue of that work is whether it's worth it being born and living knowing that you may have to suffer in life and eventually die. Blake doesn't seem to come out definitively on either side, as in many of the Songs.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    For me, the key to the poem is

    "Did he who made the lamb make thee?" referring to the Tyger. I think Charles has it right with the questioning about God and why he should make something so fearful - not just evil, but so naturally powerful and terrifying.

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    ^Or, why shouldn't he make something so fearful?
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Yes - but he is contrasting the Tyger with the Lamb.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I thought the Tyger was actually an animal, that he might have seen in a zoo. Is he actually the Devil?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I thought the Tyger was actually an animal, that he might have seen in a zoo. Is he actually the Devil?
    I think in Blake's time the Tyger was considered a terrifying beast, which contrasts with the Lamb. I think the poem is questioning why a loving God would create something so scary when he's created the Lamb of God to save us.

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    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    It's hard for me to take this poem out of the context of everything else I read by Blake, so it seems to largely be a celebration of the Tyger, to me. The narrator needs to sound afraid and confused, in order to capture the fearsomeness of the animal, of course--but I think "burning bright" is a clear indication that Blake finds the Tyger as impressive and holy and, in a certain sense, as beautiful as the lamb. I don't think he'd call it "evil", for example. It's to be a surprise for the reader (and was for Blake, too, I assume, whenever he had the realizations that led to the idea behind the poem), but I think the message is, "being meek is just half the story" when it comes to the world and the life that God's given us.

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    Remember the poems of Experience had "Mirror" poems in the Innocence. The question is nature of evil, simplicated, evil is also divine (hence the awe). Blake answers Swendeborg in a way and in way validate him. There is a difference between God/Jesus (the true good) and the creator (who is also evil, as the OT god). (The question we see popping here sometimes was very popular at this time: how is evil possible if god is all powerful). The experience is also a way to tell how human life, dedication to material world, moves him from innocence.

    And yes, it is heretic, it is gnostic-like, which is pretty much heritic in every way. Blake knew it, he basically believed the church went apart from truth (yet, like the tyger, was made from truth-god, the gospels) and developed an individualist religious pratice. It is simplistic, because being heretic hardly had much impact then.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    Blake probably wrote "made" because "begotten" wouldn't fit with the meter. The Christian/Biblical allusions in The Tyger/The Lamb and throughout the Songs of Innocence/Experience are well documented. Blake had a very Jungian view on religion and Christianity, basically seeing Jesus as an analogy to the poet/creator/storyteller/allegorist, whom was the real "God in man." For him, the OT God (whom he associated with "Urizen" in his allegory) was more frequently used in society as a symbol of oppression, a means by which those in power controlled everyone else. In his early works he crafted Orc to represent passion/emotion as a revolutionary force against Urizen, but his focus eventually shifted to Los, creative/poetic imagination, as the more lasting form of revolution against such oppression. His Songs are as allegorical as his later work, but done in a much lighter verse form. The Tyger is probably studied so much because it foreshadows a lot of the themes/imagery (especially industrialism) that would come to dominate his later work.
    Sandman, that seems like a shallow reading of Experience. I believe the Blake of "The Marriage Between Heaven and Hell", and the revolutionary long-poems would have put Satan as the savior - the Orkic, if I may stretch the term. I think this poem is one of Aporia - the divide between good, right, wrong, and the poetic imagination - the force of creation - that is, the grabbing of the fire - is less certain. Blake does not have the answer in this poem, as the imaginative, destructive force of the Tyger cannot be contained, framed, like how God, or Urizen in other works tries to frame the world.

    This is not a theological poem as much as it is a philosophical one. Blake's theology is confused and heretical from the beginning. What we do know though, is the poem has no clear ending. It ends in Aporia - what is this Tyger, this force of imagination. It is the spark of the French Revolution, and the violent chaos that followed it. It is the same violent urges that have one crash an airplane into the Twin Towers in New York. In a sense, it is the Romantic, or Creative impulse - which is both good, and bad, but always somehow beautiful in its articulation.

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