There is a German word called weltschmerz, which translates into “world pain” or “weariness against the world”. This word describes sad emotions felt after realising that the material world cannot satisfy the mind and that the ideal, hypothetic utopia in your mind cannot exist. It also describes the sadness felt after realising that your weaknesses arose from physical and social conditions of the world. Weltschmerz was widely used by poets such as Lord Byron, mainly as a way of viewing the world. It is a very pessimistic view of the world that often leads to or associated with depression, resignation and escapism. In severe cases it may lead to mental disorders such as hikikomori (a social disorder where the person does not and cannot leave their room due to fear and disgust of the world, also known as agoraphobia).
The creator made the Lamb, but he also made the Tyger. In this world, there is no light without darkness. No good without evil. No life without death. The Lamb represents innocence, Christ and aesthetic beauty, while the Tyger represents evil, the Devil and primal ferocity. An all-powerful deity that created the world; if he exists, then all rules of this universe were devised by his design. So why did he – the supposedly loving, benevolent maker – create these dualities? What god would make such a monstrosity, as beautiful as it is, that is the Tyger? And how is it that we are both a Lamb and a Tyger at the same time?
(Both The Lamb and The Tyger by William Blake after the break)
Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life, and bid thee feed By the stream and o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing, woolly, 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, and he is mild; He became a little child. I a child, and thou a lamb. We are called by his name. Little Lamb, God bless thee! Little Lamb, God bless thee!
~ 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 sieze 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?
Edgar Allan Poe is quite possibly the father of horror literature, well-known for his macabre works such as mystery novels, poetry and critiques. His stories are uncanny and gripping at the same time, and it can only be described as “mad genius”. Among his most famous works is a poem called The Raven.
It is a story about a young scholar whose lover has passed on, and his eerie, dream-like conversation with a raven on a winter night. The poem repeats the word nevermore extensively, creating a powerful effect as its meaning varies for every stanza. The narrator constantly cries out to the raven, expressing pain and torment, to which the raven replies – cold and succinctly – “Nevermore”, depriving him of hope.
Here, the raven is a metaphor of the man’s anguish and his eternal devotion and love. Furthermore, as a raven is often a symbol of logical thought and darkness, it sets the atmosphere of the poem very nicely. Lastly, as the reader is left pondering whether the bird actually converses with the narrator, or simply repeating the same word meaninglessly, it brings upon a chill down the reader’s spine, as the man is placed in a perverse conflict between desire to forget and desire to remember. The raven leads him through his descent from weakness and frailty to confusion, and from confusion to madness.
However, the reason The Raven is so famous is not just because of its sinister mood, the metaphor of the young man’s sorrow and anguish or the powerful repetition of the word nevermore, but also because of the actual structure. Poe wrote the poem in the meter of trochaic octameter, where stressed syllables and unstressed syllables alternate to produce beautiful fluidity. The meter together with the rhyming scheme (including internal rhymes and alliterations) allows the poem to be read in a dreamy way, reinforcing the question of whether the raven comes to the man in reality or in his dream.