While symmetry and duality are often regarded as separate, polar opposites, poetry is one arena in which the two can blend together cohesively to form an elevated meaning. William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger,” demonstrates how these two opposing forces culminate in a unified whole with regards to metaphoric and symbolic meaning. From the poem’s opening lines to its final reiteration, Blake uses the symmetry of poetic form to underpin and accentuate the duality theme that comprises the content of the poem.
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Looking at the structure of Blake’s poem, symmetry becomes immediately apparent. Each verse or quatrain is comprised of four lines. The second verse is structured exactly like the first; the third quatrain mirrors the structure of the prior two, and so forth. This formal symmetry defines the poem’s structure. In addition, each quatrain is comprised of two rhyming couplets. The first two lines rhyme with each other while the last two lines rhyme together with a different sound. This scheme creates a kind of sub-symmetry within each of the quatrains, each line mirroring the one that precedes or proceeds it.
Looking at the poem from a broader view, its opening and closing lines are also symmetrical in their mirror imagery. The first and last quatrains are almost exactly alike. The poem’s ending verse is almost an exact replica of its opening lines. There is one difference between each quatrain, however -- in the first verse, Blake uses the word “could,” which he replaces with the word “dare” in the last verse. Although the words are different, they are both symmetrical and dualistic in their ambiguity. Wondering who “could” or would “dare” create the Tyger could suggest either courage or audacity on the maker’s part.
In his ponderings about whether the Tyger’s creator is good or evil for making such a beautiful, yet ferocious, creature, symmetry creeps into the theme of duality that otherwise dominates the poem. Blake wonders which aspect of the Tyger is a reflection of its maker. Is the creator beautiful, courageous and strong like the Tyger, or is its maker just as fierce and violent? In essence, Blake is considering how the Tyger and its maker are symmetrical. Like symmetry, duality is also immediately apparent in the first four lines of “The Tyger.” Blake describes a Tyger burning brightly in a forest at night. Here, within the formal symmetry of the poem’s structure, a dualistic image of brightness and darkness is established. Blake metaphorically considers this dualistic imagery of light and dark throughout the remainder of the poem while pondering who the Tyger’s creator could be. As he questions “what immortal hand or eye” could create something so beautiful yet so “fearful,” Blake establishes a duality between good and evil that mirrors the light/dark imagery dominating the first and last quatrain of the poem.
In conclusion, William Blake’s “The Tyger” is at once symmetric and dualistic, drawing the two together through form and content as he ponders the notion of each. While Blake never gives us an ultimate answer about the nature of the creator, the dualism and symmetry that runs throughout the poem allow us to ponder the Creator from either side, as both reflective and contrary to the Tyger’s awesome beauty and ferocity.
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