With all the sturm und drang about Tiger Woods and (his) infidelity, it might be worth remembering William Blake‘s celebrated poem, The Tyger. The poem has nothing to do with infidelity, or golf, but it has something to do with ambition, and seduction—two key ingredients in most cases of adultery. While Blake was making a serious, Christological point, it’s interesting to read the poem through the (comparatively) banal lens of today’s tabloid news.
The Tyger describes something at once beautiful and terrifying, something sublime. It addresses the question we all ask at some point–in regard to ourselves, our spouses, our planet: how did this happen?
TIGER, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies 5 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? 10 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 15 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? 20 Tiger, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
— William Blake, 1757-1827