Friday, May 04, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Tiger, Tiger

by William Blake

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, 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?

We can never touch them, 
so we love them from afar; 
they are wild and distant -- 
the Tiger and the star. 

We can never know them; 
they are not what we are: 
fire, fire, burning bright -- 
the tiger and the star. 

by David Elliott

Have I mentioned recently how much I love teaching fourth grade, especially from February on? Well, I am and I do.

Earlier in the year, I shared Blake's "The Tyger" with my students, along with the way-cool video interpretation I first saw at Tabatha's blog, The Opposite of Indifference.

Our focus right now in Reading Workshop is "Reading to Learn." I decided to take a break from conferring and read alongside my students yesterday. I'm reading poetry to learn to be a better poet. I was sitting at a table with some students, reading David Elliott's IN THE WILD, and taking notes in my notebook when I came to his poem, "Tiger." I'm not sure why I never noticed it before, but I was struck by the way his poem made me think again about Blake's. (And I vowed that someday I, too, will write a poem that makes the reader think of a famous poem.)

S., whose favorite animal is the tiger, overheard me talking about the poem with N. (who tried a few dictionary poems with me in early April). He came over and told me about getting chills when he heard Blake's poem for the first time -- the part (and he quoted) "about 'Tyger, Tyger burning bright/in the forests of the night' " and also when he thought about the answer to the question of who made the tiger. 

Well, of course it was then MY turn to get chills. I had no idea that "The Tyger" had made such an impression on S. Even after only one exposure, he could quote parts of it. And he, too, loved how Elliott had made a slantwise reference to Blake in his poem.

Fourth grade at the end of the year -- it doesn't get much better than that.

Elaine has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Wild Rose Reader.


  1. I have always loved that Blake poem too. What wonderful students you have!

  2. Every time I read something about your classroom, I wish I lived in Ohio and could come and see your brilliance personally. You are amazing! This story gives me goosebumps!

  3. Oh my gosh, Mary Lee - your recounting of your student's comments give ME chills! That's a lot of chills for an old poem. (And we have to throw in Carol's goosebumps, too.) You have cultivated room for wonder in your classroom, and that's magical. I love IN THE WILD - a gorgeous book. [Blake's tyger has followed me around since the first time I met it, too, many moons ago. I missed the wild video at Tabatha's; thanks for sharing here.]

  4. That story gave me chills, too. It's so magical when kids connect with poems viscerally.

  5. Hi ML! Great pair of poems, and thanks for sharing the classroom story. -Ed

  6. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Save the tigers!

    I posted lyrics from Matt Nathanson's song All We Are today at Bildungsroman:

  7. Wonderful post, Mary Lee! Hadn't seen Elliot's poem's before so that was a real treat -- Blake's poem is still magical. Didn't encounter it until college though. I envy your 4th graders!

  8. Great story, Mary Lee. We really don't know what someone is taking in, maybe even what they are saving for a rainy day.

  9. How wonderful your fourth-graders are already haunted by poetry. May it never end.

    A few years ago, were you at the Library of Congress with the kidlit bloggers when they brought out a Tyger manuscript for us to ogle?

  10. What a story for your journals Mary Lee, to capture for sharing again & again with other students. Very well done!

  11. Your influence extends well beyond your knowing. Good teachers are like that. Thank you for all you do with those young ones in your classroom.

  12. It's that last quarter, they seem to arrive somehow .... Book clubs, for instance, have become so fascinating to listen into. It always seems so unfair that this quarter seems to fly by the fastest!

  13. I have read the Blake poem a number of times of the years and still don't have a clue what it is about! LOL I like Elliott's poem. Nice comparison.

  14. I am not even sure where to start...awesome video, love your chilling moment with A (that is the best), both poems are so thought provoking, I love the Elliott poem "they are wild and distant, the tiger and the star. Love it all!

  15. My daughter is in fourth grade and she is enjoying poetry greatly. She is familiar with this Blake poem primarily because we watch the TV series 'The Mentalist' (hehehehe, i know i know) and this poem has always been used in that TV show. One of my favorite poem by William Blake. Thank you for sharing this. :)

  16. It's so wonderful seeing students respond to words. I love it. I can live for days on one moment like that. Thanks for sharing it!


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