The Lamb and The Tyger

William Blake wrote a collection of poems called Songs of Innocence and Experience.  The Lamb and The Tyger are two poems from his collection.  And they are great for reading with kids because they are easily explained and are about familiar animals.  In addition, the ideas within them are big enough for older kids to really be able to learn from and discuss.  So everyone in your family can get in on this lesson in some level.

Many of the poems he wrote have companion poems that contrast with each other, and these are two of them.  They show the differences between childlike innocence and worldly experience.  Also, Blake explored the ideas that there are two sides to people as well, the good and the evil.  In this poem pairing he uses two animals that seem quite opposite from each other – a lamb and a tiger (he spells it “tyger”).  The lamb represents good, or innocence, while the tiger represents evil, or experience.  So here are the two poems to read together.  And ss you read, feel free to stop and explain the lines and what they mean as you go.  Also, point out some things in the pictures that you read in the words as well.

The Lamb


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

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 seize 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?

Discussing The Lamb and The Tyger

Now that we’ve read the poems, let’s talk about them.  Either of these poems could stand on their own, but they have even more of an impact when you take the two together.  First, what do you think William Blake’s point was?  With little ones you can stick to the simple ideas of how a lamb represents goodness and how a tiger shows evil.  In addition, older kids can dig deeper.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In the poems Blake claims that if God created both of these creatures, there must be something reflected about who God is in each creature.  Do you think that art always reflects who an artist is?  So does a story or article or poem always reflect who the author is?  And does a building reflect who its architect is?
  2.  The two poems discuss the idea that the same God who created the gentle, innocent lamb also created the vicious tiger.  This shows the bigger idea that there is both good and evil in the world and asks: Were both created by God?  More importantly, what does that say about God?
  3. Even within one creature, the tiger, there is both beauty and terrible violence.  Can you think of examples of things that are both beautiful and also horrific in the world?
  4. The Lamb uses the confident, trusting tone of a child’s innocent faith while The Tyger has only unanswered questions which, interestingly, represent experience.  So does experience leave us with more questions or fewer questions?  Can you give an example?
  5. Finally, what elements of Romanticism do you see within the poems?  The trademarks of Romanticism include:
  • an interest in common people
  • a focus on childhood and innocence, along with natural goodness
  • strong emotions
  • an awe and reverence for nature
  • a celebration of individuals, especiall those who are outcasts or who are misunderstood
  • a recognition that imagination is important and legitimate

Printable Activity

You can also use this printable activity as you learn about The Lamb and The Tyger.

Click on the link or the picture to access the printable.

Additional Layers

  • Another great set of poems to explore by Blake are The Chimney Sweeper poems, one represents innocence while the other represents experience.  Here is one, and here is the other.
  • Write your own companion poems.  Compare two opposite ideas – love and hate, beauty and ugliness, sadness and happiness, or even just being tall and being short.
  • William Blake was an English poet and artist, and he often illustrated his own poems.  Write a poem and then draw illustrations around the border of your poem like he did.  (You can look at the poems shown above to see his illustrations framing the words of his poems.)
  • William Blake was religious, but he also fought against organized religion, and most of all, The Church of England.  What is the difference between religion and organized religion?  Also, what are the potential weaknesses of churches?  Finally, do potential weaknesses make all churches bad, or do they also do some good?  (Hint to aid your discussion: The Church of England was formed after the King of England disagreed with what the Pope had said.  In fact, many churches were formed because they disagreed with the pope, other ministers, or other church leaders.  They started their own churches to reflect how they saw God and religion.)  Do you go to church?  Why or why not?
  • Lastly, this is a portrait of William Blake that was painted by Thomas Phillips. He painted many important people of the Romantic period – scientists, poets, explorers, and artists.  If Thomas Phillips were alive today, who do you think he would painting portraits of?

More From Layers of Learning

Layers of Learning is a homeschool program made up of hands-on family style learning activities.  You really can teach all of your kids the same topic, eliminating the need for Mom to feel pulled too many directions.  First, check out our catalog to see all that we have to offer, and then see our curriculum guide to get a better picture of how we use Layers of Learning to make our homeschools the best they’ve ever been.

Every Layers of Learning unit has sections for history, geography, science, and the arts.  This exploration is from the arts section of Layers of Learning Unit 4-4.  It has all kinds of explorations to help your family learn about art from the Romantic Era, which also includes more poets, philosophers, authors, and musicians like Beethoven and Chopin.

The arts section of Layers of Learning Unit 4-3 is also about the Romantic Period, but it teaches about painters and paintings.  You can make connections between all the genres while you learn.

In addition, you might also like our other poetry explorations.  Teaching Poetry With Delight and Wisdom shares some ideas about how to teach your kids to love poetry.

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