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Burning Questions: A Guide to William Blake’s “The Tyger”

Notes on Form

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“The Tyger” is a short poem of very regular form and meter, like a children’s rhyme in shape (if certainly not in content and implication). It is six quatrains, four-line stanzas rhymed AABB, so that they are each made up of two rhyming couplets. Most of the lines are written in four trochees, trochaic tetrameter -- DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (da) -- in which the final unaccented syllable at the end of the line is often silent. Because of the four consecutive stressed beats in the words “Tyger! Tyger!,” the first line could more properly be described as beginning with two spondees rather than two trochaic feet -- DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM da DUM. And a few of the quatrain-ending lines have an additional unstressed syllable at the beginning of the line, which converts the meter to iambic tetrameter -- da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM -- and places a special emphasis on those lines:
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?...

Did he who made the lamb make thee?...

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The opening quatrain of “The Tyger” is repeated at the end, like a chorus, so that the poem wraps around itself, with one crucial word-change:

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

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