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This essay was originally published on The North American Society for the Study of Romanticism’s blog.  The full essay can be read on their home page by accessing the link at the end.


If you want to understand the Title you have to wait till the end.

This semester happens to be my last in grad school and so I thought I would treat myself to only two classes that way I would be able to spend more time writing.  My what a foolish dream that was.  In my ignorance, or clueless bliss I’m not sure which, I forgot that Graduate School, even if it’s just for a Master’s degree, is a Deathclaw from Fall Out 4: a fallout4_deathclaw_3_by_jd1680a-d9guojlmonstrous soulless beast designed to rip, tear, bite, and devour the body before digesting the soul in its black pit of a stomach.  Despite that colorful description, I should note for the reader that I am actually enjoying school despite the fact it’s slowly killing me.

I’ve never studied Emily Dickinson before, which, given the fact I’m an Americanist, is something akin to admitting you’ve kissed your third cousin that one time at the family reunion though that may just be if you’re from the south like I am.  I signed up for a class dedicated only to her poetry and life with the professor who is considered the most strenuous instructor in our department.  It became clear right away that I had signed a deal with Mephistopheles as course load included: 127 poems a week, 2-4 chapters of a biography of Dickinson, 2-4 chapters from a book of criticism about her poetry, 6-7 Blackboard posts each at least 100-200 words, 4 essays due every other week, and finally a seminar research paper at the end and this is just for one class.

I would be lying if I said this was not exerting, but in my labors I stumbled across a poem with stunning imagery:

A Dying Tiger—moaned for Drink—
I hunted all the Sand—
I caught the Dripping of a Rock
And bore it in my Hand—creek-crossing-bengal-tiger-300x225

His Mighty Balls—in death were thick—
But searching—I could see
A Vision on the Retina
Of Water—and of me—

‘Twas not my blame—who sped too slow—
‘Twas not his blame—who died
While I was reaching him—
But ’twas—the fact that He was dead—
  (Franklin ed. 529)

The reader may protest, wondering what Dickinson has to do with English Romanticism.  My answer to this interjection, apart from “be patient please,” is to reveal that it has nothing whatsoever to do with romantic poetry.  Dickinson served here merely as the inspiration to talk about William Blake.

The Tyger is a poem I’ve read numerous times, for school as well as for personal pleasure, and I imagine those of my fellow NASSR writers who live and breath romanticism might be sick of it by this point in their academic career.  The steady meter of the work allows for almost immediate memorization, and more people than even god can count have, at some point, used it in their artwork from Thomas Harris (Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs) to Paul Dini (Batman the Animated Series).  The reason for this may simply be because of the icon of the Tiger as an animal.




Evil Tyger Max -#12