William Blake (1757-1827) was an energetic painter and writer. He was happily married to Catherine Boucher, who helped him publish his poetry. Blake wrote that "imagination is the divine vision, not of the world, nor of man, nor from man as he is a natural man, but only as he is a spiritual man." Unappreciated in his own time, he has become recognized as one of the world's great poets.

Blake published Songs of Innocence in 1789 in a unique manner. The poems were drawn in varnish on metal plates, then plunged in acid, so that the parts not covered by varnish were eaten away, leaving only the words and designs created by varnish standing out like engravings. Such a remarkable effort can truly only be appreciated when one realizes that all the words had to be written backward in order to appear correctly to the reader!

In 1794 he published Songs of Experience. Where Songs of Innocence portrayed the innocence of a child's world, Songs of Experience plunged man into a world without Paradise. His writings recognize the contrasts of life - good and evil, flesh and spirit, innocence and experience, heaven and hell.

The following two poems reflect this contrast - The Lamb, from Songs of Innocence, and The Tyger, from the Songs of Experience.


Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!


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

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

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

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

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

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

William Blake