William Blake The Tyger inspired wallpaper

William Blake was both artist and poet, creator and illustrator, philosopher and printmaker. He wrote at the start of the revolution and had radical ideas, to some he was considered mad. He has inspired hundreds from The Doors to Bob Dylan, Feminism to Patti Smith. His poem The Tyger was the inspiration behind the wallpaper Tyger Tyger which I designed for my daughter’s nursery.

In 1789 William Blake published The Songs of Innocence, a collection of poems dealing with light hearted topics that celebrated happiness. Later he published Songs of Experience addressing the darker side of life. He described his poems as “creative ways of addressing the two contrary states of the human soul”

The Tyger was written within Songs of Experience and is often compared to The Lamb, its counterpart from Songs of Innocence. While The Lamb has a simple, clear message of faith and hope, The Tyger is more troubling. Both poems ask the same question: where do we come from? In The Lamb, an answer is given: God made us. The Tyger, a highly symbolic poem, the speaker in the poem is puzzled at the sight of a tiger in the night, and he asks it a series of questions about its fierce appearance and about the creator who made it. Throughout the poem he asks a series of questions and none of them are answered.

William Blake tyger tyger poem The Tyger has a repetitive style and is short in length making it accessible to young readers, although the topic is anything but childish. Blake explores the coexistence of good and evil, but he also questions the source of their existence, asking how a single creator could create both beauty and horror.

We are living in a time when we need to urgently look after nature and consider our relationship with it. The tiger is a symbol of the sublimity in nature, the most beautiful, powerful and dangerous of all the cats and it is near extinction. Tigers are extremely precious and to lose such a creature in the wild would lose the miracle that Blake is questioning throughout the poem. According to the WWF there are only 3900 tigers left in the wild.

At first not the most obvious poem to take influence from when designing wallpaper for a child’s bedroom but it is the wonder Blake has for the world and the miracle of nature that I want my daughter to share, I want her to be able to live in a world full of tigers. I want her to question the creation of such wonderful beings.

Tiger wallpaper in nursery

The poem actively creates vivid imagery in the reader's mind and this is something I wanted to emulate in the wallpaper.  For example, the ‘Tyger Tyger burning bright’ in the poem is effective because the reader can imagine a tiger prowling the forest at night. The use of the word burning creates a vivid colour in the reader's mind, which could be referencing the colour of the tiger's fur of its ferocity. I wanted to have the tigers fur a vivid orange to reference the flames. The word burning also relates to fire and hell so the tiger really stands out in dark forests. The tigers in the wallpaper are mirror images as Blakes is in awe of the Tygers ‘fearful symmetry’.

The framework of the poem echoes a nursery rhyme and each stanza consists of 4 lines, represented by the 4 tigers illustrated in the repeat pattern of the wallpaper.

The illustration of the tiger is innocent making it seems simplistic and attractive to children, however, the meaning is complex and provokes debate.

tiger wallpaper tiger wallpaper

tiger wallpaper in nursery

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?

Tyger Tyger is now on display at the Tate Britain until 2nd February 2020.

Tyger Tyger wallpaper and cushions now available on my website click here

 


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