Who Made the Lamb Made Thee
When Blake asks in his “The Tyger” whether the hand who made the Tyger also made the Lamb, his question is indeed rhetorical, as he well knows the answer, and his poem makes the fact readily apparent. Blake was an extraordinary man, who possessed a vision which saw through and beyond the perceptible, through the everyday beliefs of the commoners, and into the fabric of reality. In fact, I’d argue that he is a post-structuralist centuries before structuralism and post-structuralism came to be, and a Jungian analyst of the human soul and nature centuries before he came to be, as we shall see in a moment.
Blake demonstrates his views through the ironical presentation of binary oppositions throughout the poem. The Tyger, our “protagonist”, is pitted throughout with the “antagonist”, the Lamb. We witness the Voice pondering, if the same He who made the meek Lamb could have also made the Tyger. The rhetorical debate is obviously about the nature of God. We tend to believe that God is purely good, and the meek Lamb testifies, but then how are we to account for the Tyger? Maybe it was the Devil who made him, but then again that is a blasphemous idea, we see the Devil as the destroyer, not the creator, creation being the sole domain of God according to basic tenets of Judeo-Christian religions. How are we to make sense of this, then?
We will make sense of it in a moment. But before, to further muddy the waters, juxtaposition of the Devil’s and God’s characteristics can be seen throughout the poem, the two grandest binary oppositions running into each other. “Was it in distant deeps or distant skies…, What dread hand dared to seize the fire? What dread feet? When the stars threw down the spears and water’d heaven with their tears, did he smile his work to see?” With that last line, for example, is it the Devil who is being spoken of, content with the chaos he created in Heaven as he and his comrades fall, or is it God, smiling contently since the rebellion has been defeated by His angels? The language is deliberately ambiguous, and can be applied to both situations and figures.
I believe the reason behind this ambiguity of language is because Blake is suggesting that the distinction between the two figures is also ambiguous, there being no clear-cut line between them, as Judeo-Christian belief systems would have us believe. To take it one line further, he is suggesting that these figures are one and the same. In fact, all the divine figures from religions and mythology are: the imagery of hammers, anvils, chains, fire, hammers in dreadful hands striking burning hot anvils in the poem, as an example, evoke to us the image of Vulcan the Lame, a god from Greek mythology. There is no Father who is pure or Devil who is completely evil sitting above or below us, but rather a mysterious, contradictory figure, above, below, and beyond all directions. The figures which can be seen Judeo-Christian belief systems, furthermore, are not as original as they may seem, since they carry the characteristics of figures from older religions and mythologies, it is merely a new amalgamation, hence the contradictions present in them, as much as they may try to deny them, as proposed by Blake. He, refusing these arbitrary categorisations and oppositions, sees Nature as One, containing all possibilities and impossibilities within its nature, without categories; it is only in our all too human attempt that we try to cut it in pieces, placing arbitrary boundaries where there are none.
I mentioned Vulcan the Lame above, whose epithet inclines me to digress. The Greeks knew about the manyfold aspects of Beings, and so as well as hosting a pantheon of Gods, their Gods also had strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs. The Master Creator, the God of the Anvil and the Forge, was also a lame and ugly brute. Of course they had their binary oppositions too, most importantly for literature the Apollonian aspect, related more with masculinity, rationality, civilization, and tragedy, and the Dionysian aspect, associated with femininity, irrationality, nature, comedy and music, as analysed by Friedrich Nietzsche (2008) in his book titled “The Birth of Tragedy”. What they did differently, however, to the post-Christianity world, was to view both the Apollonian and Dionysian as necessary. An equilibrium had to be struck. In arts, sciences, politics, in short in any field, the need for balance was a given. Hence the yearly Dionysian festivals took place, where people went wild in those carnivalesque settings. With the introduction of Christianity into the Western world, however, the Dionysian, the chaotic, the feminine, the irrational, all had to be banished. The Father is Apollonian God, and it was only His side of the equilibrium that merited recognition, while the other side was assigned to the Devil himself. True, yearly carnivals still took place in the Maedieval Period, as Bakhtin analyses them in depth in his “Rabelais and His World” but they were the only place to which Dionysius was condemned, and the Church not so much allowed them but ignored their reprehensible presence, if not outright banned them when and where they could (2008). It is in stark opposition of the disparagement of the Dionysian that Blake wrote his “The Tyger”, introducing back into Christianity the Dionysian, showcasing how the Father also carries within him that chaotic, fearsome side.
Furthermore, Moving even beyond the Greeks and muddying the waters between the Apolonian and the Dionysian, he managed to see both ends as One. And thus, we once again arrive at his worldview that all all beings are One. He is a Christian who realises that when Jesus Christ says “I and My father are one, but He is greater than I”, since we are all the Sons of God, being moulded in His image, we are all just like Jesus Christ the Son of God, and thus we are also one with Him. And when Jesus Christ paradoxically remarks “[we] are one, but He is greater I”, he is referring to the Father as the collective source of being, and while we are one with it in the sense that we are a part of it, yet since He encompasses all things, He is greater than us individually. From a psychoanalytic and Jungian perspective, we could even say the Father represents the collective unconscious (see Jung’s essay “The Structure of the Unconscious” in Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 7 by Princeton University Press, 2014). We all contribute to it, draw from it, and in turn it becomes greater than us all. Differing from the views of Jung, this collective unconscious of Blake’s and ours is shared not only by humans, but all Beings, it being the source of all knowledge, all forms, the Tygers and the Lambs of the world and all else.
Another related point I want to remark on before I end the column is how the names of the creatures, the Lamb and the Tyger, are written in capitals. This, I believe, yet again refers to all of us being one with God or Nature, whichever one may prefer. Thus, all beings are holy and godly. While Judeo-Christian religions only capitalise He our Father’s name, seeing it as a single entity, Blake seems Him as a polymorphic unity, all of us being a form of His, and thus all living beings’ names get to be capitalised just as well.
Or perhaps William Blake had German ancestry, and liked his nouns capitalised. Further research must be done (perhaps for the next column).
P.S. I. I have not [REDACTED], only a single sentence [REDACTED] to be sufficient, as [REDACTED] would.
P.S. II. Though I [REDACTED] Blake’s standing as “[REDACTED]”, and shortened it to “[REDACTED]” in anticipation of [REDACTED] shame. Nevertheless, being [REDACTED] of [REDACTED] creation, I shall leave it as such.
P.S. III. Thank you, [REDACTED] for the [REDACTED] (though I believe [REDACTED]). I have immensely enjoyed [REDACTED] throughout the years, and believe [REDACTED] on my [REDACTED] of [REDACTED]. I will be around for [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], wrapping up my [REDACTED]. After that, we hopefully will get to see each other again.
P.S. IV. Do [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] requirement? Wish [REDACTED] [REDACTED] earlier.
Bakhtin, Michail Michajlovič. Rabelais and His World. Indiana University Press, 2009.
Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An introduction to literary and cultural theory. 2nd ed., Manchester University Press, 2002.
Evans, Robert C. “Literary Contexts in Poetry: William Blake’s ‘The Tyger.’” Literary Contexts in Poetry: William Blake’s “Tyger,” Sept. 2006, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=23184803&lang=tr&site=eds-live.
Jung, C. G. Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 7. Edited by Gerhard Adler and R. F. C. Hull, Princeton University Press, 2014.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Birth of Tragedy. Translated by Douglas Smith, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Raducanu, A. L. “Introduction to Psychoanalytical Criticism II.” Yeditepe University, Istanbul. Lecture.
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Shmoop Editorial Team. “Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/. SparkNotes™’s Lame Brother, Trying Its Best to be Relatable to Our Generation, Like an Uncle Who Uses Slang and Makes In Jokes About Memes to Look Hip and Be “One of the Gang” &c, And Apparently We Are Now a University Too, Which Means the Academics of the World Will Have to Accept Us as Reliable Sources to be Cited in Academical Papers.
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, www.wikipedia.org. The One True Source of True & Indisputable Knowledge, Generally Speaking.