William Blake’s Tyger – 6

Peter Orlovsky:  What is it in the dictionary?  (in S.Foster Damon’s A Blake Dictionary)?

AG:  Well, you want to look up the tiger?  Can you look up the tiger?  I think we did already.  We looked it up but “(He is the) Wrath of the Heart, for his position is East…(He is the) fallen Luvah, when Love has turned to Hate, he is Orc (revolution).”

Okay, so it’s the imagination that made this “Wrath of the Heart”, too –  [Allen continues quoting from Foster Damon] “‘Wrath is a fire,’ wrote Spenser, utilizing a common symbol, and fire in Blake is often associated with the Tyger. But though at least once he is ‘burning bright'” –  (right on!)  – “his flames are largely a blinding smoke, as in Dante‘s Purgatorio [xvi].  ‘(Urizen’s) tygers roam in the redounding smoke in forest of affliction'” – (in the Four Zoas) –  “Orc is ‘a Human fire”, yet his flames emit ”heat but not light’. When the Wrath breaks forth, it is Revolution” –  (in Europe and Ahania and Four Zoas..and Milton), “consuming with its flames the forests of the night, and thus is part of the divine scheme.  ‘The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” – (Marriage of Heaven and Hell) –  “But “the wild furies from the tyger’s brain”  (that’s in the Four Zoas) – “cannot perceive the Human because he is blinded by the redounding smoke..  ‘The Tyger fierce laughs at the Human form” – (the Four Zoas) –  “He is ‘dishumaniz’d'”- (the Four Zoas) –  “In battle, “the monsters of the Elements, Lions or Tygers or Wolves … terrific men they seem to one another, laughing terrible among the banners.  And when, the revolution of their days of battles over, relapsing in dire torment they return to forms of woe'” – (the Four Zoas) –  “But in Eternity the beasts shall all ‘Humanize in the Forgiveness of Sins'” – (Jerusalem)   “Even as Rintrah” – (wrath) – “(north) and Palamabron (east) constantly work together, so do the Lion (north) and the Tyger (east).”

‘The Tyger’ is probably Blake’s best-known poem. Charles Lamb called it ‘glorious'” (in a letter to Bernard Barton on the 15th of May, 1824).  “It was written about 1793, when just across the Channel the French Revolution was consuming those ‘forests of the night,'” – i.e., “Church and State.” –  Oh, “Tyger Tyger, burning bright/In the forests of the night.”  -Amazing.      Yeah, so this is the imagined revolution.  The revolution as conceived in the imagination.

Peter Orlovsky:  The Tyger is “Europe, Europe”?


AG:  Well, it’s the revolution going on in Europe.  The French Revolution, or the fury of the French Revolution.

Student:  So the “Wrath of the Heart” …

AG:  Yeah.

Student:  … which would correspond to Orc?

AG:  Yeah.  Actually, there’s a figure for revolutionary wrath – Rintrah, righteous revolutionary wrath – who begins to enter into the poem Europe, and Rintrah is the child, first-born, of Los, poetic imagination, and Enitharmon, spiritual beauty, in the world.  And it’s sort of related to Orc.  Both Orc and Rintrah sometimes Blake puts them as first-born.  The poet of imagination.  First one then the other.

But that makes sense.  If the “forests of the night” are Church and State, that’s fantastic.  Then that makes it fall into place politically.  Tyger as wrath.  And then it’s saying, “Did you who made the lamb make thee?”  Did he who wanted justice and peace and liberty and equality and fraternity make this fiery revolution in Paris?

[continues reading] – “In the Songs of Innocence and Experience,  it counterbalances “The Lamb.”  The Lamb symbolizes the Loving God,  the Tyger,  the Angry God..”..  “The poem describes the forging of the Tyger, which is glimpsed, as it were, in sudden flashes through the chaos; meanwhile Blake iterates the question “who”‘  –  or rather,”what” –  is the creator.  At last, when the Tyger’s form is completed, the stars throw down their spears in terror..” -Reason throws down (its) spears in terror, like the Shah of Iran threw down his spears in terror and fled. [Editorial note – Allen is lecturing, 1979, at the time of the Iranian Revolution]  “When the stars threw down their spears/ And water’d heaven with their tears,” is just exactly the situation of the Shah of Iran right now.

Then “Blake reaches his climax in the question ‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’  Blake knew the answer, but he wanted to force the reader to find that answer himself.  The whole is an extended query.  Could the all-loving Father be responsible for these horrors without Mercy of even Justice?  Of course not.  The Tyger is not the contrary to the Lamb but its negation”, he says here.

“As Kathleen Raine has demonstrated” (in an article, “Who Made the Tyger?” in June, 1954, Encounter” – ( that’s amazing! –  “Who Made the Tyger?”) – “the “Tyger was created by Urizen.  The event took place at the very first Fiat of Creation, and as the result of Urizen’s primal disobedience.  Urizen, “first born of Generation” ‘heard the mild & holy voice saying, ‘O light, spring up & shine'” – (Genesis)  – “‘& I sprang up from the deep…. (He) said, ‘Go forth & guide my Son (Albion) who wanders on the ocean.’  I went not forth:  I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath, I call’d the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark; the stars threw down their spears & fled naked away.'”  (That’s in the Four Zoas,  all that we heard).

“Thus Wrath came into being.  It is Urizen’s, not the benign Creator’s.  Urizen’s satanic Pride was affronted when he was appointed to serve Man..” –  (Your-reason’s satanic Pride was affronted when he was appointed to serve Man) –  “That his Wrath was the creation of the Tyger is confirmed by the action of Urizen’s stars, who fling down their spears in terror.”

“It was a crucial event for the whole universe.” –  (This is in  America) – “The moon shot forth in that dread night when Urizen call’d the stars round his feet….”  – (That’s in America)   Then “burst the center from its orb, and found a place beneath; and Earth, conglob’d in a narrow room, roll’d round its sulphur Sun.”

“Urizen is not invariably the creator of the Tyger.”  In other parts of Blake, ‘Theotormon’ — (tormented theology-man) – and Sotha – (that’s physical war) – “create the Lion & Tyger in compassionate thunderings” to frighten the unbodied Spectres into human lineaments.  The Four Sons of Los, in war time, ‘Create the lion & wolf, the bear, the tyger & ounce”.

“Blake was dissatisfied with line 12″ –  (Foster Damon goes on) – ‘”What dread hand? & what dread feet?” –  In one copy of the Songs of Experience  (watermarked 1802),” –  (so that’s ten years later) – “he altered it to “What dread hand Form’d thy dread feet” – (instead of “What dread hand? & what dread feet?”)  – “What dread hand Form’d thy dread feet?”  “In 1806, Benjamin Malkin, who obviously got his material from Blake himself, printed a still better version:  “What dread hand forged thy dread feet?”” –  “Forged” – “What dread hand forged thy dread feet?”  – So that would be – “forge” – Urthona -imagination.

Let’s look up “forge” (and  “anvil”), because I would really like to track this down.  The “forge” is very important because what it is is the imagination having to take material form and go through all sorts of suffering to actually make a living thing, so that’s why you’ve got the forge and the fire and the pain of all that.  In other words, imagination taking body, taking shape and of actual material and earthy shape.

[Allen continues to review  A Blake Dictionary] – They don’t seem to have a “forge” here.  (They have “Forests”) – .Let’s see.  “anvil”…

It’s really great to get some grasp on this poem after all this years, because it’s been hanging around mysteriously in the brain all these years, but it actually did have symbolism and meaning.

[continues looking] – No, nothing.  “Hammer”, “Anvil” – well, Los’s hammer, maybe.  Los has a hammer so I’ll look up that –  Apparently nothing.

“The Hand (sic) is frequently mentioned in Blake’s writings, but seldom with special meaning.  It is the means of accomplishment – Vala’s hand, for example..In “The Tyger” it is differentiated from the creative vision –  ‘What immortal hand or eye…?'”  –  (That’s the “hand”).

What other things can we look up here?  “Stars”?  Want to hear what he has to say about starry heavens and stars?  Well, I don’t know.  Starry seven.

Student:  Does he have “fearful symmetry” there?

AG:  Well, I’ll look up “symmetry” in a minute.

Oh, another thing about stars, yeah –  “The Starry Seven”, or the seven Angels of the Presence, are the seven Eyes of God, the series of States, which revolve as inevitably as the stars.  See “Eyes of God”… “Stars” symbolize Reason.  (Their dim light is equated with Reason in the opening lines of Dryden‘s” poem “”Religio Laici“.) They are a member of a quaternary – the “Sun (imagination), Moon (love), Stars (reason), and Earth (the senses).  They are assigned to Urizen.   “They are the visible machinery of the astronomical universe, and may be considered as Fate.  Originally they were part of Man, “but now the Starry Heavens are fled from the mightly limbs of Albion”.  They are created in “the Mills of Theotormon on the verge of the Lake of Udan-Adan”.  They are ‘the boundaries of Kingdoms, Provinces, and Empires of Chaos, invisible to the Vegetable Man”, and constitute the Mundane Shell, ‘a mighty Incrustation of Forty-eight deformed Human Wonders of the Almighty’, the Forty-eight being the forty-eight constellations, and the Almighty being Shaddai.

“In that dread night when Urizen call’d the stars round his feet.” –  (Foster Damon keeps quoting that line) –  the whole universe was disorganized and took its present form.”  “Elsewhere Urizen recalls how he disobeyed the divine Fiat of Genesis  rather than guide Man, who was wandering on the ocean – ‘I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath, I call’d the stars around me feet in the night of councils dark, the stars threw down their spears & fled naked away.’  This reference definitely places the creation of the Tyger later than that of the Lamb, and would seem to make Urizen the Tyger’s creator.”

“As I read” – (Damon says) – “the ‘Introduction’ of the Songs of Experience, the lapsed soul” – (calling the lapsed soul, remember?) – that “might controll/The starry pole/And fallen, fallen light renew”- (“the starry pole”) –  “But the soul persists in turning away from Jesus, the Holy Word, and therefore is given mercifully “The starry floor/The wat’ry shore”  until the true day breaks.”

So we’re given “The starry floor,/The wat’ry shore” within the appearance of the senses, exfoliated out of reason, out of Urizen, to create this mundane shell, until, with the.. let us say, “lions and tigers of wrath” and death, we break out of it, or are broken out of it, and then enter into a realm of imagination. I think (that) would be the ultimate (or at least) one extrapolation from this whole thing.

What else would be (interesting)?  What other images in here to look up?  Symmetry?  Want to try that?

This book is great.  This is the kind of bible to get through Blake.

to be continued

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