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William Blake in ‘The Tyger’ and Ted Hughes in ‘The Jaguar’

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  • Category: Poetry

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3) Compare the ways William Blake in ‘The Tyger’ and Ted Hughes in ‘The Jaguar’ use language to make us aware of the power of the animals.

Tigers and Jaguars are big cats which both have a lot of power. They are beautiful creatures. Even though William Blake and Ted Hughes were born and wrote 200 years apart, I find it interesting that both poets write about big cats, and the amount of power they have considering the time gap. Although the contexts of the poems are different, the way the poems are written with strong words and interesting poetic techniques are very similar.

In ‘The Tyger’, Blake is infatuated by the animal. He thinks of the Tyger as if it is some kind of G-d, one created and blessed by G-d himself. It is a divine creature! Just like Blake thinks so much of the tyger, Hughes thinks the same of the jaguar, but Hughes is not as religious as Blake and does not think of his creature in that context. Throughout the poem, he asks the tiger questions about how it was made because for him it is such an amazing creature,

‘What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’

Even though Blake was not a great believer in organized religion, he was a passionate believer in the power of G-d which would explain why the poem is about the power of the tyger. Blake uses powerful imagery from the start by exclaiming the word Tyger twice. The reader feels the powerful gaze of the animal , recognizing the tyger’s blazing eyes, as if on fire,

‘Tyger ,Tyger, burning bright,’

Blake asks himself who created this creature? But he knows it could only be G-d that could create such a mighty creature,

Julia Lee

‘Without contraries, there is no progression’.

‘What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’

He suggests the animal was formed with the skill of workers and blacksmiths and when they had finished, they cried because he was so beautifully made and filled with greatness.

‘When the stars threw down their spears,

And watered Heaven with their tears’

He makes the point that if G-d made something so powerful and fearful like the tyger, then how could he make something so sweet and innocent like the lamb which is just a baby, because they are so different that is so strange to imagine that the same creator created them both,

‘Did he who make the lamb make thee?’

In order to show the supremacy and awe of the animal, Blake uses strong words and phrases such as,

‘Immortal hand or eye’, ‘fearful symmetry’, ‘fire of thine eyes’, ‘fire’, ‘sinews’, ‘threw down their spears’, ‘burning bright’ ,and ‘dare’.

He also makes great use of repetition, which brings a pleasing rhythm into the piece.

‘Tyger, Tyger’, ‘and what…’, ‘dread’

These are rhetorical questions used to give emphasis on the subject he is talking about,

‘Did he who make the lamb make thee?’

In the Jaguar, the power Hughes talks about does not come from G-d, but from itself. The poem starts off very depressing and miserable talking about all the other animals in the zoo. The zoo looks like a picture. Nothing is moving. All the animals are in small cages together and can’t be bothered to move. The animals are bored,

‘The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.’, ‘Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion’

Julia Lee

To show the boredom effectively, Hughes uses long vowels.

The only animals that seem to be moving are the parrots which Hughes compares to cheap tarts. They are colorful as if they are groping for attention and have to sell themselves like prostitutes or cheap tarts,

‘The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut,

Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.’

And apart from that, all that is moving is straw,

‘Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.’

Hughes uses different senses to describe the zoo and the inhabitants in it.

However, the Jaguar is not bored or showing off, he is living in his own world and imagining he is in the wilderness, in his own habitat. He has big staring, powerful eyes,

‘Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes’

Everyone runs past all the cages apart from the jaguar because everything else is not interesting or intriguing unlike the jaguar. He entertains himself and paces his cage. When he gets to the other side, he quickly turns around and starts pacing to the other side.

It is like every step he takes gives him a sense of freedom because he already feels free and not caged up, he is compared to a very religious person like a monk, in his cell,

‘He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to him

More than visionary his cell:

His stride is wilderness of freedom:’

Every step the animal takes is like he is walking on the world, he is moving as if he is in his own habitat and not in a prison for people to come and stare at him, he makes the world spin when he walks as an effect of his power.

Unlike the setting of the poem, the jaguar is not sad, but as if he is on a mission and determined.

Reminiscent of Blake, there is a huge sense of power felt through the imagery,

‘Short, fierce pulse’, ‘As if on fire’, ‘Drills of eyes’.

Julia Lee

The drills of eyes are like a pair of working machinery.

Hughes shares Blake’s use of noise and rhythm to show the attractions and actions of everything around and in the scenery,

‘drill’, ‘shriek’, ‘bang’.

This technique is immediately effective, as it grabs the reader’s attention right away.

I like both these poems equally. They are both filled with energy, love and vitality which bring it to life! I spent a long time contemplating which poem or poet I preferred, but it was an extremely hard conclusion as I have a big passion for both. To a certain extent, the poems appealed to me because of my love for animals with power and authority. The Jaguar as an animal drew me in because of its almost spiritual thinking, of not feeling caged up but free and in its own habitat. In The Tyger, it is its remarkable features, such as its fiery eyes and looks which I find entrancing. Overall, I am very pleased to have looked at these two poems alongside each other for my coursework. .The poets had so much to agree on although they were centuries apart, and I was also thrilled to agree with them.

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