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?

In “The Tyger,” as in most of the poems in Experience, the poetic voice is that of the bard or the visionary prophet. Here, he expresses his awe at the “immortal hand or eye” that could create such a beast. In these lines, the speaker alludes to the Greek mythological heroes Icarus and Prometheus. The poem’s challenging tone and rhetorical questions also echo passages from the biblical Book of Job. The message contains the truth that life includes destruction as well as creation.

Is this a holy thing to see, In a rich and fruitful land, Babes reduced to misery, Fed with cold and usurious hand? Is that trembling cry a song? Can it be a song of joy? And so many children poor? It is a land of poverty!

“Holy Thursday” in Experience functions as a companion piece to the poem with the same title in Innocence. Both poems comment on an annual parade of orphan children to a special church service. In this poem in Experience, Blake speaks as a prophet in an outraged and indignant tone. In these lines, Blake asks rhetorical questions that demand negative answers. In the last line, Blake explains why “Holy Thursday” is not holy. He accuses the supposed caregivers of collaborating in the children’s misery and poverty, implying that they fail to share their wealth.

I wander thro’ each charter’d street, Near where the charter’d Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice: in every ban, The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

In “London,” Blake uses the voice of a prophet-bard to speak out against evil. The meter and rhyme scheme are regular, but the poem reads more like a march or protest song than a hymn or ballad. An effective rhetorical device, the repetition of words enhances the martial tone. Blake capitalizes “Man” and “Infants” to show that individual beings in the poem stand for humanity as a whole. His righteous anger comes from his vision that the forces that make people weak and fearful originate in the human mind. The words “ban” and “manacles” serve as reminders that those forces include human laws.

Read more about the theme of evil in Robert Browning’s poetry.

Popular pages: Songs of Innocence and Experience