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The poetical works of William Blake; a new and verbatim text from the manuscript engraved and letterpress originals/The Tyger

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The Tyger

1Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

5In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

Engraved on a single plate from the first draft of the poem on pp. 109, 108 (reversed) of the MS. Book. The MS. readings, too numerous to be readily intelligible in footnotes, are given in full in the appended note on the different versions of 'The Tyger.' This poem was first printed in ordinary type in Malkin's Father's Memoirs (1806), p. xxxix, from a copy probably supplied by Blake himself, which exhibits an important variant reading of the last line of the third stanza. An early corrupt version also appeared in Cunningham's Lives of the British Painters (1830), ii. 144.

2 forests] forest Malk., Cunn., R1; Thro' the desarts Chas. Lamb (quoting from memory, in a letter to Bernard Barton, May 15, 1824).4 Could frame] Framed Cunn., DGR, WMR (2nd version).6 Burnt] Burned Cunn., DGR., WMR (2nd version); burn'd Wilk.the] that DGR, WMR (2nd version).fire] fervour Cunn., R1.of] within DGR, WMR (2nd version).7, 8 dare] dared DGR, WMR (and version).

9And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

13What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

17When 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?

21Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


10 thy] thine Wilk.11 And… heart] When thy heart, Malk., Cunn., DGR, WMR (and version).12 What… feet?] What dread hand forged thy dread feet? Malk.; What dread hand formed thy dread feet? Cunn., DGR, WMR (2nd version); What dread hand and what dread feet WMR, EY, WBY; What dread hand framed thy dread feet? Swinb. See also editor's note to this poem.13, 14 What… brain] What the hammer! what the chain! Formed thy strength and forged thy brain? Cunn., R1; What the hammer, what the chain. Knit thy strength and forged thy brain? DGR, WMR (2nd version).16 Dare] Dared Malk., Cunn., DGR, WMR (2nd version).its] thy Cunn., DGR, WMR (and version). 17 spears] spheres Cunn., R'.18 water'd] watered Malk., Wilk., WMR, EY, WBY; sprinkled Cunn.their] shining Cunn.21-24 This stanza is omitted by Cunn., DGR and WMR (2nd version).


NOTE ON 'THE TYGER.'

The original draft of 'The Tyger,' written upon two opposite pages (pp. 109, 108 reversed) of the MS. Book, enables us to follow every step in the composition of the poem. On the left page is found the first rough draft of stanzas 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. In stanza 3 the manuscript version throws light upon a verse which has proved a crux to many of Blake's readers and commentators. It will be seen that Blake at first intended the line—

'What dread hand and what dread feet'

merely as the beginning of a sentence running on into the next stanza. Unable to complete this stanza to his satisfaction he cancelled it altogether, leaving the preceding line as it stood. This, of course, did not escape his notice when engraving the poem for the Songs of Experience, and by a change of punctuation he converted the unfinished passage into its present shape—

'What dread hand? & what dread feet?

a line exactly parallel in form to—

'What the hammer? what the chain?'

of the following stanza. The terrible, compressed force of these two short sentences, which burst forth with a momentary pause between them like shells from a mortar, is altogether lost in the languid punctuation of the Aldine edition—

'And, when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand and what dread feet?'

and it is only the failure of critics to observe the significance of the revised pointing of the engraved version which caused Swinburne to speak of this passage as a 'rock of offence,' or Mr. Yeats to remark that when engraving the poem Blake 'forgot to alter the last line of the third stanza.' At a later date, in the version which there is no reason to doubt was supplied by the author to Dr. Malkin, Blake again remodelled this line into the slow and solemn form —

'What dread hand forged thy dread feet?'

where the gain in definiteness and technical accuracy is at the sacrifice of much of the fiery energy and vague suggestion of terror conveyed by the earlier text. It is probably with an imperfect remembrance of this final emendation of Blake's, misled by the spurious version of Gilchrist, that Swinburne (Critical Essay, p. 120) refers to 'the recovery of that nobler reading—

'What dread hand framed thy dread feet?'

a variant for which there is no printed or manuscript authority. The word 'frame' moreover had already been used in the first stanza.

On the opposite page of the MS. Book is the first draft of the fifth stanza, the composition of which Mr. W. A. White, the present owner of the MS. Book, thus explains to me in a letter:—

'I think that [BIake] wrote first "What the shoulder? What the knee?" and then, seeing that he had used the word "shoulder" before, he struck it out and inserted the word over it, which seems to be "ankle," but is not very clearly written. 'Then I think the glorious line occurred to him, "Did He who made the lamb make thee?" Probably after that he erased the line above, and wrote above it '"And did He laugh His work to see?" and then added the two lines about the stars. Then Blake re-arranged the order of the lines in the stanza, and numbered them in order to make this order clear; and also at the same time numbered the stanzas, making this the fifth. I think that he struck out the number "3" in front of the first line of this stanza by accident, meaning to erase the first word "And."' Above the fifth stanza, though probably written after it, is a revised version of stanza 2, which differs from that finally adopted. The difficult line—}}

'Could heart descend, or wings aspire?'

has been interpreted by Swinburne: 'Could God bring down his heart to the making of a thing so deadly and strong? Or could any lesser daemonic force of nature take to itself wings and fly high enough to assume power equal to such a creation? Could spiritual force so far descend, or material force so far aspire?'

Upon the same page, to the right of these two stanzas, follows a fair copy of stanzas 1, 3, 5, and 6, which, except for unimportant differences of capitalization, and the readings 'dare frame' for 'could frame' in the first, and 'hand and eye' for 'hand or eye' in the first and last stanzas, is identical with the text of the engraved Songs.

The following is a faithful transcript of the original draft of 'The Tyger' in the MS. Book, Blake's variant readings being indicated typographically by placing them in consecutive order, one below another, deleted words or lines being printed in italics. The manuscript itself is unpunctuated throughout. It will be seen that this version differs in important details from that given by Messrs. Ellis and Yeats (iii. pp. 91, 92), which not only fails to make clear the sequence of Blake's alterations, but contains such inexplicable misreadings as 'filch' for 'fetch,' 'horn'd' for 'horrid,' 'inspire' for 'aspire,' and 'did' for 'dare'—errors repeated in Mr. Yeats' 'Muses' Library ' edition of Blake (notes, pp. 238, 239).

THE TYGER.


1. Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
   In the forests of the night,
   What immortal hand & eye
                      or
   Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
   Dare
 
2. In what distant deeps or skies
   Burnt in
   Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
   The cruel
   On what wings dare he aspire?
   What the hand dare sieze the fire?
 
3. And what shoulder, & what art
   Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
   And when thy heart began to beat
   What dread hand & what dread feet
 
   Could fetch it from the furnace deep,
   And in thy horrid ribs dare steep?
   In the well of sanguine woe—
   In what clay & in what mould
   Were thy eyes of fury roll'd?
 
5. What the hammer? what the chain?
   Where where
   In what furnace was thy brain?

   What the anvil? what the arm
                            arm
                            grasp
                            clasp
                      dread grasp
   Could its deadly terrors clasp?
   Dare grasp?
                            clasp?
    
6. Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
   In the forests of the night,
   What immortal hand & eye
   Dare form thy fearful symmetry?
        frame
          [On the opposite page]
   Burnt in distant deeps or skies
   The cruel fire of thine eyes?
   Could heart descend, or wings aspire?
   What the hand dare sieze the fire?
    
5. 3. And did he laugh his work to see?
          dare he smile
                  laugh
      What the shoulder? what the knee?
               ankle?
    4. Did he who made the lamb make thee?
       Dare
    1. When the stars threw down their spears,
    2. And water'd heaven with their tears.

A few words must be added with regard to the so-called 'second version' of 'The Tyger' in the Aldine edition, and thence reprinted by later editors under such headings as 'a later MS. version' and the like. This, Mr. W. M. Rossetti explains in a footnote, is 'the version which figures in Mr. Gilchrist's book,' adding that it 'shows certain variations on MS. authority.' What MS., as Mr. Yeats complains, is not stated, and as there is obviously no warrant for these readings in the MS. Book, he assumes that they owe their origin to changes introduced into the text by D. G. Rossetti. The version given by the latter, however, as he himself states in a note prefixed to his first transcript (R1), is based upon that printed by Cunningham in his Lives of British Painters (1830, ii, 144), where the last three stanzas run:—


'And what shoulder and what art
 Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
 When thy heart began to beat
 What dread hand formed thy dread feet?

'What the hammer! what the chain!
 Formed thy strength and forged thy brain?
 What the anvil! What dread grasp
 Dared its deadly terrors clasp?

'When the stars threw down their spheres,
 And sprinkled heaven with shining tears,
 Did he smile, his work to see?
 Did he who made the lamb make thee?'

A comparison of the versions of the other poems and passages quoted by Cunningham with their originals in the Poetical Sketches shows that unauthorized readings are introduced into almost every line, and it is plain that Cunningham treated Blake's text with the same freedom which he would have thought himself entitled to use in an old Scots ballad. No manuscript authority of Blake's can therefore be claimed for this version. The interest attaching to everything relating to this poem, called by Swinburne 'the most famous of Blake's lyrics,' may be thought sufficient excuse for adding to the length of this note by reprinting Dr. Julius's German translation of 'The Tyger' from the Vaterländisches Museum, Bd. II, Heft i. (Hamburg, 1806). This spirited and admirably literal rendering appeared, it will be noticed, at a time when Blake's Songs were almost unknown to his own countrymen.


'DER TIGER.

'Tiger, Tiger, Flammenpracht
In den Wäldern düstrer Nacht!
Sprich, welch Gottes Aug' und Hand
Dich so furchtbar schön verband?

'Stammt vom Himmel, aus der Höll',
Dir der Augen Feuerquell'?
Welche Flügel trägst du kühn?
Wer wagt wohl, zu nah'n dem Glüh'n?

'Welche Stärke, welche Kunst,
Wob so sinnreich Herzensbrunst?
Als dein Herz den Puls empfand,
Welch ein Fuss und welche Hand?

'Was ist Hammer, Kettenklirr'n?
Welche Esse schmolz dein Hirn?
Was ist Amboss? Welcher Held
Muth in deinem Arm behält?

'Aus den Sternen flog der Speer,
Thränend ward der Himmel Meer:
Schaut' er lächelnd da auf dich?
Der das Lamm schuf, schuf er dich?

'Tiger, Tiger, Flammenpracht
In den Wäldern düstrer Nacht!
Sprich, wess Gottes Aug' und Hand
Dich so furchtbar schön verband?'