William Blake’s Tyger – 9 (conclusion)

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “..Tyger” continues from here (and concludes here)

AG: Okay, now, here’s the “fearful symmetry.”  We’re getting somewhere now. {Allen now quotes from David V Erdman’s Prophet Against Empire] –  “Nevertheless, according to the Devil at least”  (in the “Proverbs of Hell”, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) “the roaring of lions and the howling of wolves “are portions of eternity”, even though “too great for the eye of man” and perhaps too great for the mind of man.  Blake’s famous Song of Experience, “The Tyger”, raises the cosmic question –  How can the tiger of experience and the lamb of innocence be grasped as the contraries of a single ‘fearful symmetry’?  The answer, suggested in question form, is that the very process of the creation of the tiger brings about the condition of freedom in which his enemies (his prey) become his friends, as angels become devils in The Marriage…  The tiger in Blake’s illustration of this poem is notoriously lacking in ferocity,” – notoriously lacking in ferocity..” – (so you see how many people have poured over this muddle (or) puzzle) – “and critics have sometimes concluded that Blake was unable to “seize the fire” required to draw a fearful tiger. He could at least have tried, but he is showing us the final tiger, who has accomplished his mission, has even, perhaps, attained a state of organized innocence as have the adjacent lions and tigers of “The Little Girl Lost” and “The Little Girl Found”. (If you look at them they’re real friendly lions with human faces, definitely grandfatherly faces).  “who demonstrate that “wolvish howl” and “lions growl”‘ and “tygers wild” are not to be feared.

“The creative blacksmith who seizes the molten stuff of terror and shapes it into living form on the cosmic anvil must employ dread power as well as daring and art, but the dread, Blake hopes, will be sufficient unto the day.  The climax of the forging is a mighty hammering which drives out the impurities in a shower of spark, like the falling stars children call angels’ tears.  At this point in “The Tyger” Blake employs the symbols which in his political writing signify the day of repentance when the king’s “starry hosts” shall ‘throw down..sword and musket, the nobles and priests, “shall weep, and put off…war”,  and the “wild raging millions, that wander in forests” shall become “mild peaceable nations’ walking ‘in bliss” – “When the stars threw down their spears/ And water’d heaven with their tears:/Did he smile his work to see?/Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

“The creator must have smiled at Yorktown” ((during) the American Revolution, an American victory), “and at Valmy” (from the French Revolution, a popular victory), “not because his people were warlike, but because they seemed ready to coexist with the Lamb, the wrath of the Tiger having done its work.  The question, ‘”Did he smile his work to see?'” is perhaps as rhetorical as the corresponding query of Orleans” (in the French Revolution piece) –  “And can Nobles be bound when the people are free, or God weep when his children are happy?”

“This is not to imply that “The Tyger” is a political allegory, but to point out that the fire in which the tiger is forged can be recognized as a general form of the fires that “inwrap the earthly globe” in the first year of the French Republic.  The tiger burning in the forests of the night is a vision in the same mind that saw in Necker” – (the character in the French Revolution) –  “a hind threatening to burn down ‘the ancient forests of chivalry.'” –   (Yeah, remember all the forest imagery in the French Revolution ?  Yeah, the forests were the old order – Church and State) – “that saw portions of eternity wherever men were struggling to be free – “a Serpent in Canada … In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru,… a Whale in the South-sea” – and that would see, in another year, wrathful lions and bloodthirsty tigers in ‘the vineyards of red France.'” – That’s it.   And  – “Note Wordsworth‘s description of Jacobin Paris at night” – (Wordsworth was in Paris during the Revolution). (and) “his description of Paris as a place (where) “Defenceless as a wood where tigers roam.””

And Orleans speech in The French Revolution – (Remember that speech?  I think it’s a sympathetic populist speech by the Duke of Orleans, citing, have you seen “Fayette’s forehead,” “Mirabeau’s eyes,” and “the shoulders of Target,” “Bailly the strong foot of France,” and “Clermont the terrible voice”, “as parts of the Revolution which terrify only the unsympathetic beholder, anticipates the dread hand, shoulder, feet, and daring of the blacksmith who forges the tiger and clasps its ‘deadly terrors.'” –  That’s right, because he had the forehead, shoulders, foot, and voice.  Remember that passage?  Does anybody not remember?)

Peter Orlovsky:  What passage?

AG:  It’s in the book, The French Revolution  Orleans gives a nice speech promoting revolution, or praising the revolutionaries..French Revolution  Oh, I can’t..(find it here).. The French Revolution’s  later.

Student:  Page two-ninety

AG:  Yeah.  (Page) two-eight-nine, yeah.  He’s the liberal party among the nobles, remember, Orleans.  “(P)ut forth/His benevolent hand,” “Shook the chamber” spoke, and said – “And can Nobles be bound when the people are free, or God weep when his children are happy?/ Have you never seen Fayette’s forehead, or Mirabeau’s eyes, or the shoulders of Target,/Or Bailly the strong foot of France, or Clermont the terrible voice?..” – (Those are all the revolutionary leaders) – “…and your robes/Still retain their own crimson? mine never yet faded, for fire delights in its own form.’ – (Well, that’s that great line) – “But go, merciless man! enter the..” –  (This is, right, here’s where he actually is..) – “But go, merciless man! enter the infinite labyrinth of  another’s brain/Ere thou measure the circle that he shall run. Go, thou cold recluse, into the fires/Of another’s high flaming rich bosom, and return unconsum’d, and (then) write laws./If thou canst not do this, doubt thy theories, learn to consider all men as thy equals,/Thy brethren, and not as thy foot or thy hand, unless thou  first fearest to hurt them.”

Well, the imagery here fits with the imagery of “The Tyger”, particularly “enter the infinite labyrinth of another’s brain.” – What I was trying to say before was that the tiger was created in the “infinite labyrinth of the brain”.  The tiger and lamb both. When I said they’re products of the imagination, they’re projections of the human imagination – “enter the infinite labyrinth of another’s brain.”  And that’s where all these stars “throw down their spears”.  That’s the space where that’s all taking place.

So I guess that’s about it.  There’s some more.  I’ll look up some more if I can.  But those of you who have books that you’re reading, or looking up, you might look up the tiger in there and see if we can get more composite intelligence about the tiger.

Student:  And we’re doing Europe?

AG:  Yeah, we’ll continue with Europe

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