NaPoMo, Day 3: The Tyger

It’s day three of National Poetry Month, and here at The Read Room the reading just gets better and better. In fact, it was so good today that I had trouble choosing only one poem to share. Needless to say, when it comes to selecting poems for next week’s transcription project I will have more than enough! 🙂

The poem I want to share with you today is this (be sure to read it out loud!):

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 watered 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?


Ok, first– did you read it aloud? If not, try it now. If so, do it again! This has to be one of my absolute favorite poems for meter and rhyme: it moves so fluidly to its own beat and the traditional couplet rhymes (bright/night, skies/eyes, aspire/fire) reinforce the poem both in the mind and the ear. A poem doesn’t have to pay attention to sound, but one that does certainly wins admiration from me– and it’s definitely easier to commit to memory.

Second, look at how strong the language and images are. My first poetry instructor challenged us to take any poem and subtract the adjectives and adverbs, leaving only nouns and verbs. It is the nouns and verbs that resonate with us because they carry the most weight: they are the texture, the sights, the sounds, the smells and tastes. What nouns do we have here? Tyger, fire, wings, shoulder, sinew, hammer, chain, furnace, anvil…powerful stuff! The stuff of nightmares! I can see this Tyger being hammered and twisted in a hellish forge– I can see him burning  in the night!

Now, I said yesterday (after “The Emperor of Ice-Cream“) that usually when a poet repeats something they mean to draw special attention to it. Check out the first and last stanzas of “The Tyger”– the same, right? Wrong. The two stanzas are exactly the same except for a single, changed word: “could” in “What immortal hand or eye / could frame thy fearful symmetry” becomes “dare” at the end. When it comes to the analysis side of things, that is significant: it plays into the same complexity of repulsion, admiration and wonder hinted at in the line “Did he who made the lamb make thee?”

Here is today’s complete reading list. For the first week of April I am observing National Poetry month by reading 10 poems a day. Favorites are starred.

From Poetry, An Introduction, compiled by Michael Meyer (Fifth Edition):

  1. “Lonely Hearts” by Wendy Cope
  2. “The Tyger” by William Blake (see above)*
  3. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats
  4. “To Celia” by Ben Jonson*
  5. “Whatever Is” by Charlotte Perkins*

I also read several poems by Oscar Wilde today and, as expected, every one impressed me. Novels, short stories, fables, poetry…is there anything Oscar Wilde CAN’T do??? This is part of the reason I had so much trouble choosing only one poem to share today. The other I wanted to talk about was Wilde’s “Chanson,” a very brief list & contrast poem about unrequited love. Check it out by clicking the link below!

From Selected Poems of Oscar Wilde, compiled by Phoenix Poetry:

  1. Chanson“***
  2. Hélas!
  3. In the Gold Room–A Harmony“*
  4. Pan: Double Villanelle“*
  5. The Grave of Keats“*

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