The Lamb and the Tyger, William Blake. John Tavener.

The poem called the Lamb by William Blake was first written in his collection of works called Book of Innocence. This book later became part of Songs of Innocence and Wisdom.

The book shows the benefit of Naivety and Experience. This was highlighting another aspect of the teachings of William Blake. Contraries. Without Innocence, wisdom would have no use. The overcoming of innocence brings wisdom and experience.

The trick is to get the balance right. We need to remain innocent in some aspects. For example, I have no experience of drug taking, nor do I ever want any. I don’t think I would benefit from taking drugs of any kind at all . But at the same time, I have benefited by the experience of others in this area. I have seen what drugs do to people and desire to remain innocent of ever doing it myself.

The Lamb poem was mirrored in the  Songs of Wisdom, by The Tyger. On one hand, you have the innocence of the Lamb, who knows nothing and is happy to go about life just…being. The Tyger however is manipulative, always looking for opportunities to devour those not as smart as himself. Blake sees the Tyger as evil and cruel. But the Tyger cannot exist without the Lamb. If there were no innocent created, the Tyger would not have anything or anyone to prey upon.

Blake also reminds us in the poem, the Tyger, that the Tyger was made by the same hands who made the Lamb. Good and evil by one hand. Since the bible tells us that all things are created by God (John Chapter 1), then God made good and evil alike. Without Evil, there is no good, or we wouldn’t be able to discern between the two.

Such a paradox for one, such as me, who always thought that all good came from God and all evil came from Satan.

I have been contemplating this since studying William Blake this last semester (semester 2, 2016) when I studied Blake at University. It was again brought to my mind when we sang The Lamb (words by William Blake, Music by John Tavener) on the Australian Catholic University Choir tour to Rome.

John Tavener obviously studied the poem and its context well before writing the music for this  a Capella piece. The song starts off with the purity of a soprano line, and is joined in along the way by alto, tenor and bass sections. The soprano is beautiful but haunting as the singers ask… “Little Lamb who made thee? dost thou know who made thee?”

As the different sections are added, you can hear the discords or the clash of notes between two or more sections. In some parts the clash is quite pronounced as natural notes come against sharps, which are sung at the same time as flats. It really is confusing for a singer. The timing also is varied throughout the song, as is the volume. But in the end, it all comes together , when the child says…”I’ll tell you who made thee… he is called by your name”. From  then on harmonies bland well, united under one God. It truly is a remarkable piece of music. Copyright prevents me from sharing the written music with you, but here is a YouTube clip from King’s College, Cambridge of the song so you can hear the discord harmonies for yourself.

enjoy.

Dave


“The Lamb”
from Songs of Innocence

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly 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 & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

“The Tyger”
from Songs of Experience

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 of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire!
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

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?
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 water’d 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?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under literature, Visionary Imagination

3 responses to “The Lamb and the Tyger, William Blake. John Tavener.

  1. Enjoyed this post very much. One sentence in particular really got my attention…”Without Evil, there is no good, or we wouldn’t be able to discern between the two.” That is so true! The song is beautiful and I can understand how difficult it would be to sing if one did not know anything about music. (like me)

  2. John Tavener was a gifted musician who left us too soon. This piece of music is one of my favourites. – I heard it performed in total darkness by Winchester Cathedral choir a couple of weeks ago. It never fails to move me.Thank you for an excellent post.

    Click to visit Keith’s Ramblings!

    • When we first rehearsed it, The Lamb sounded horrible. Slowly we learnt how to make the dischords work. It sort of echoed the journey of our choir. We came from 5 university campuses to make a single national choir. At the start, the sopranos were way too loud. Well they should be, they made up half the choir. As we went on, the different sections found their voice…growing in confidence until we united as one, good enough to present a program to a cardinal, a few ambassadors and other distinguished guests in one of the most beautiful churches in the world. An experience that I will never forget.

Please offer feedback

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s