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Thursday 5 August 2010

Tyger, tyger turning green...

In November 2007 I included in a post on anthologies a review of Carol Ann Duffy's Answering Back. (here). CAD had had the brilliant idea of writing to all the leading poets and asking them first to choose a famous poem and then to write a poem in answer to it. Fifty poets obliged. Since when  it has been an idea at the back of my head for a rainy day when inspiration had run out. I hadn't intended to bring it out just yet, but then it happen ed. I was rereading William Blake's The Tyger when  it began to morph into what follows. I kept to what I believe to be the generally accepted interpretation of Blake's poem: i.e. that the tiger is a metaphor for the industrial revolution. The 3rd and 4th stanzas make that clear with their convincing description of a skilled and powerful blacksmith, but I have extended it to include modern technology and its effects on society and the climate. Lower down I give the Blake poem for those who might want to refer to it. (Sure it would have been more logical to start with it, but there was no way I was going to follow Blake!)

Tyger, tyger, taking fright
now the forests are alight,
coal and oil, though burning bright,
are the fuels of our night.

Tyger, tyger, tooth and claw
chained and pistoned, fired no more,
still the fires you started roar,
blacken canopy and floor.

Tyger, tyger, search the sky,
see the eagle there on high.
Winds and tides have passed us by,
seize them or your cubs will die.

Algorithms in your eyes
promise much, but all are lies,
all depend on heart, not mind.
Heart is stony, you will find.

Tyger, tyger, keyboard-bound,
your truths grow more and more profound,
but truths to turn the world around
are lying there on open ground.

Tyger, King of your small wood,
how can endless growth be good?
When at last you're out of land,
can our dying globe expand?

Was it you with pesticide
gave the bugs nowhere to hide,
nor yet the baby or the bride,
'til finally the farmer died?

and was it yours, that express scheme
for baking dough -- that merchant's dream! --
that gave the yeast no time to rise
nor wheat proteins to neutralise,

who added things to lunch and tea
that were not good for you or me?
who spilt the oil upon the sea,
depleting algae grievously?

Tyger, tyger, you were born
victim of a spurious dawn,
can you lie with lambs at rest?
Dulce et decorum est.

For you were born to hunt and kill,
yet our birthrights serve us ill.
Tyger from the ashes rise --
or we are victims of our lies.

Note: Dulce et decorum est. : Latin for Sweet and fitting it is
It also happens to be the title of one of the best WWI war poems by Wilfred Owen.

And here, for anyone who might find it useful, Blake's famous poem:

The Tyger:-

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

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in 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?

Haiku #224

He's Irish begorra
and crossing The Irish Sea
in a bath tub


Unknown said...

Well, I for one, Dave, think your poem every bit worthy to follow Blake's! I love your version, which speaks to me so much more clearly than the original.

Tabor said...

I think you were brave to post with Blake in any order. How you got it all in, that was work!

Paul C said...

Coal and oil are now our tygers...

Algorithms in your eyes
promise much, but all are lies,
all depend on heart, not mind.
Heart is stony, you will find.

Wonderful contemporary answer to Blake's poem, Dave.

steven said...

dave a very clever and insightful reworking!!! steven

Unknown said...

I concur a great new take on a classic - for me your's works better

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Absolutely delightful Dave, and powerful, with great rhymes, can I use it at school for a further lesson on Blake?

I remembered a poem I wrote answering E. Dickinson, I posted it in my blog where I wrote about your own Tyger.

Rachel Cotterill said...

A worthy updating, in my view. Very timely.

Acornmoon said...

I enjoyed reading the new version and being reminded of the old.

Thank you for your good wishes.

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s tough taking something iconic like ‘The Tyger’ as a benchmark and trying to write a response that keeps the original at just the right distance. It was like Colin Matthews when he received his commission to write Pluto, The Renewer to be tagged onto the end of Holst’s The Planets (this was while Pluto was still considered a planet). I mean, where do you start? I think you’ve had a decent stab at this. Blake’s poem was only six verses long (actually only five since the last verse repeats the first) – yours is eleven and the longer we go on the more chance we have to screw it up. My gut feeling is to trim it back but then it is its own thing with its own message. The real test would be to find someone unfamiliar with the original and see if it stands up on its own.

Anyway you’ll be pleased to hear that I took up the challenge and have written a response to ‘Mr. Bleaney’. I’ve just played my wife a recording of the original and I read my version straight afterwards. She says it works but I think I’ll sit on it for a wee while before I post it so you’ll need to be patient.

Dave King said...

Wow! I'm all overcome, don't know what to say - except much thanks.

Brave or foolhardy, but actually it came unbidden to begin with. I just had to keep it going.

Thanks Paul. That's a verse I was quite pleased with.

Many thanks for that - good to know.

I happen to know that you say that to all the geniuses!

Very many thaks indeed. Surely, you may use it. Most honoured.
I shall be over to see. Thanks again .

Thanks so much.

Good to meet up again. My thanks.

I did have misgivings about mine being so much longer than Blake's, but then I thought the Industrial revolution's gone on much longer than it had in his time... take the point, though.

Shall await with tingling anticipation. (Don't blame you for hanging on a bit.)