Symbolism inBlake’s Poems
“the Tyger” and “the Lamb”
Abdul Farooq Khan
Mam Ammara Maqsood
Department of English Language and Literature, Minhaj University Lahore.
Symbolism is the poetic/artistic movement or style in which symbols are used to represent the
ideas or qualities. Symbolic meanings are given to the words and these meanings are different
from their literal sense.
It gives a writer freedom to add double levels of meanings to his work: a literal one that is self-
evident and the symbolic one whose meaning is far more profound than the literal one. The
symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature.
Symbolism in literature evokes interest in readers as they find an opportunity to get an insight of
the writer’s mind on how he views the world and how he thinks of common objects and actions,
having broader implications.
There are some general symbols that are used commonly like
1. Dove is the symbol of peace
2. Black color represents the evil or death
3. Broken Mirror may symbolize separation.
Here, in this assignment, we are concerned with the poetic symbolism. In poetry writer uses
different tools like similes, metaphors, allegory etc for this purpose. For this purpose William
Blake’s two poems “The Tyger” and “The Lamb” has been selected.
Symbols in “The Lamb”
1. The Lamb
The lamb is the symbol of innocence and purity. It signifies here to the Christ and human
innocence. In the last few lines of the poem Blake tells the reader that Creator is in both of them,
in lamb and in child too. When a human is child, he is innocent like a lamb or Christ.
2. Clothing of Delight …. Softest clothing wooly bright;
These lines points to the softness of the lamb. Lamb is awarded by the clothing that is delightful,
soft, wool and bright. All these words have something in common which we can say is virtue.
3. Tender voice…. Making all the vales rejoice:
“Tender Voice” is the symbol of sympathy and love. The lamb is awarded with sympathy and
love that is letting the all humanity rejoice. It means Christ is the sympathetic to humanity and
loves the all humans
4. He is meek & he is mild:
Blake is signifying to the creator that he is meek and mild. His meekness and mildness is also
present in lamb and the child.
Symbols in “The Tyger”
1. The Tyger
“The Tyger” is the most confusing symbol in Blake’s poetry. Many critics have been evaluating
it as devil but it is not the case. “The Tyger” is not devil but another state of human nature. It is
experienced version of “The Lamb”. When the innocence is being affected or attacked by the
evil, then a man should be “The Tyger” to restore it.
2. Forests of the night
It symbolizes the world of experience where many errors conceal the path and dim the light.
3. Immortal hand or aye
Immortal hand or aye is the symbol used for the creator.
4. When the stars through their tears
Stars symbolize angles. This may denotes to the fallen angels. They threw their spares and wept
on creation of the tyger and their defeat.
5. Tools of Blacksmith
Hammer, chain etc are the tools of blacksmith. Blake, in his all poetry, use this symbol for the
6. The fire
Fire has widely been used as a symbol of wrath.
Spenser wrote “Wrath is a fire”. Milton, inspiration of Blake, spoke of flames as the “Sign of
wrath awaked”. So Blake also used this symbol for wrath and he found some good in wrath. He
wrote “The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God” and also “the tigers of wrath are wiser than
the horses of instruction”.
He intends to suggest that the great purpose of wrath is to consume error, to annihilate those
stubborn beliefs which cannot be removed by the tame “Horses of Instruction”.
Most of the critics consider “The Lamb” as virtue and “The Tyger” as daemon but this is not the
right consideration. “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” are symbols for two different states of the
human soul. When the lamb is destroyed by experience, the tyger is needed to restore the world.