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The Tyger

The third in our exclusive series of actor Matt Ray Brown reading William Blake's poems is The Tyger - perhaps the most famous of Blake's poems, alongside the 'hymn' version of Jerusalem. As with the other sessions in this series, filmed by Finding Blake's Jonnie Howard, Matt was performing The Tyger in Blake's flat at South Molton Street in London, adding an extra magic to these films.

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?


Finding Blake team member Mark Goldthorpe says of this poem: “Many of us have strong childhood memories of The Tyger being read to us at primary school or at home. Something of the power of the animal and of Blake’s depiction — through words such as ‘fearful’, ‘fire’ and ‘dread’ — impresses itself into our minds and persists in our imaginations. Just as master storyteller William Blake intended, of course. I wonder if he sensed that this poem was one that would certainly outlast him? The imagery of the tyger, a majestic large cat “burning bright” in the dark recesses of our psyches, connects us with something primeval. In Blake’s own experience, that primeval is the link between creator and creature, the mystery of each revealing itself (but only partially) to human consciousness, and the ‘balance of contraries’ between the light and dark aspects of creation: lamb and tyger, innocence and experience. For many of us now, perhaps, the primeval is that state of imagination which can rediscover itself in all-too-human imagery grasping at a more-than-human world. For the child, it is reality. And for the tyger?…”


Notes

Matt Ray Brown reads eight Blake poems for Finding Blake and appeared in the original film for our Crowdfunder video. You can find all Finding Blake videos, as they are posted, on the Finding Blake Films at a Glance page in our Blakean Archive section. You can explore Matt’s work as an actor, including his showreel at Mandy.com, ‘the world’s largest creative community of actors, film and TV crew, theatre professionals, child actors, voiceover artists, dancers, singers, musicians, models and extras.’

Artist Linda Richardson recently took The Tyger to share with pupils at Linton Heights School in Cambridgeshire. See her post, Tyger School, for further confirmation of the enduring power of William Blake’s great poem.

 

The Process of the Gravestone

Finding Blake's James Murray-White says "It has been a wonderful journey so far to be closely involved with the production of this new gravestone honouring William Blake, and it is only part way through! From visiting the stoneyard in January with Lida and Hallam to choose the huge piece of Portland stone that the slab would be cut from, to recently seeing it cut, cleaned, bevelled - and now upright in the studio with the letters drawn and the cutting underway - is an intricate, intimate knowledge of a process. I’m filming it, and I hope I can also convey the pleasure I’m having in visiting once a week or so, talking and listening through each stage, and recording it, and making short clips to illustrate it."

Triptych of images taken by James Murray-White while filming Lida cut more of Blake’s new gravestone at her Cambridge workshop: May 2018

I thought here I’d set out the process in its entirety, as explained by Lida:

  1. The gravestone is cut and cleaned at the stone yard, and then delivered to the Kindersley Workshop
  2. The stone is bevelled. This process takes a week, entirely done by hand
  3. The stone is put upright over the special area of the workshop designed for such large projects, with a hole in the floor to give full access.
  4. Freehand drawing of the letters upon the gravestone.
  5. Spellcheck: members of the Blake Society committee visit to check and approve spelling and design.
  6. Cutting begins.
  7. Washing the gravestone after letters drawn: final painting, staining, building completed.
  8. Preparation of the ground at Bunhill Fields: paving blocks, stone setting, landscaping etc.
  9. The ceremony! August 12th, 2018. The Blake Society are planning a beautiful ceremony with readings and a choir. Further details will appear here and on the Blake Society website nearer the time.

And Finding Blake will be there to make a special short film of the event. In the meantime, snapshots of the creation of the gravestone and of Finding Blake activities continue to be added to the project timeline in Our Story Continues.

We will midway through the process sit down and do a more formal interview about how she came to be commissioned, and her reflections on Blake, on letter-cutting, and the specifics of this stone, with much philosophy in-between, and I look forward to filming, editing, and sharing that.

An additional process to the creation of the stone was carried out by Lida and Hallam on behalf of the Blake Society: cutting chips of the surrounding discarded stone, to be given as mementoes to all who donate an amount to cover the cost of commissioning the stone and having it set. You can find out more about that on the Blake Society website.

The Human Abstract

We continue our special series of exclusive readings of some of Blake's poems. Like the others, this video of actor Matt Ray Brown reading The Human Abstract -- filmed by Finding Blake's Jonnie Howard -- was recorded in William and Catherine Blake's South Molton Street home in London.

The Human Abstract

 Pity would be no more,
 If we did not make somebody Poor:
 And Mercy no more could be,
 If all were as happy as we;

 And mutual fear brings peace;
 Till the selfish loves increase.
 Then Cruelty knits a snare,
 And spreads his baits with care.

 He sits down with holy fears,
 And waters the ground with tears:
 Then Humility takes its root
 Underneath his foot.

 Soon spreads the dismal shade
 Of Mystery over his head;
 And the Catterpillar and Fly,
 Feed on the Mystery.

 And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
 Ruddy and sweet to eat;
 And the Raven his nest has made
 In its thickest shade.

 The Gods of the earth and sea
 Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
 But their search was all in vain:
 There grows one in the Human Brain


Finding Blake team member Linda Richardson says of this poem: “The Human Abstract ricochets between dualisms — pity and poverty, mercy and sadness, fear and peace, cruelty and care — and examines how the seed of dualistic cause and effect takes root in the mind, causing the flourishing of a deceitful tree deep within our brain. Grounded in Biblical vision and the natural elements, Blake’s poetry always sips in this ground, delighting and appalling our senses but having the capacity to illuminate corners of our mind and wake us up to our condition if only we have the ears to hear.”


Notes

Matt Ray Brown reads eight Blake poems for Finding Blake and appeared in the original film for our Crowdfunder video. You can find all Finding Blake videos, as they are posted, on the Finding Blake Films at a Glance page in our Blakean Archive section. You can explore Matt’s work as an actor, including his showreel at Mandy.com, ‘the world’s largest creative community of actors, film and TV crew, theatre professionals, child actors, voiceover artists, dancers, singers, musicians, models and extras.’