“To Any Reader “-BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

I love the poem for the child-like simplicity of its presentation. The poem has two crisp images that merge into each other and run through to the end. The poem is addressed to reader,not to a reader but to any reader.The book is the the first image. Whatever the book has to convey has significance to any reader i.e. universal significance. The book opens up windows to a garden where a child is playing around the trees under a mother’s watchful eye from the house. The garden is the second image . It stands for the happier times when the child was playing blissfully round the trees while the mother from within the house is checking up on it from time to time. The mother could knock at the window and call the child to hear her. You the reader can now see through the book’s windows the child still playing round the trees. But alas you cannot knock to be heard. Because the child no longer exists in the form occuring in the earlier pages of the book. He has since grown and gone , leaving his airy form behind in the garden. The words of the book are mere air . The windows it presents are holes in a memory and the child figment of an early form that cannot now hear your knock.No amount of your calling lures him out of the book , where he plays an airy thing of your memory.

The child is playing in the garden in another space . The reader,as from a different space ,experiences it , now through the book’s window. Unlike mom who could by her knock on the window, make the child hear,the reader cannot catch his attention. Nor can he be lured out of the book. The book is the bridge that links two spaces in time i.e . the child’s and the reader’s. The child continues to play in the garden but is out of reach for the reader. He is a mere thought, an idea in the sequence of a chronicle. He will linger for ever as an airy being straight out of the book, through the reader’s own transience.

Anyreader, you may see the child(your own former self) through the book’s windows .Only you cannot knock the window now to call the child , who is too far far away to hear your call.

I see interesting use of visual imagery. Look at the way mom’s physical seeing is juxtaposed with the reader’s imaginary view through the windows of the book :

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.

Mother sees :: you may see, if you look
playing round the garden trees :: Another child far far away
As from the house :: In another garden

Also , look at the interesting way in which space is dealt with by use of the visual imagery:

Mother’s seeing is from the physical window and its knocking can call the child to hear
Reader’s seeing is through the windows of the book he cannot knock and call to hear

Mother’s space is a window overlooking the garden
Reader’s space is through the book’s windows to a far far away child, who is a mere idea.

“Far , far away” extends space indefinitely as the reader looks back at his own childhood . The child is grown and gone away from the garden , now an adult peering through the windows of the book.

“Tyger, Tyger” By 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 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?

Blake’s song is about innocence and experience, innocence of the lamb coexisting with the experience of the tiger. When the Creator made them , did he forge them alike , when their natures are so diametrically opposite? Was it the same God who made them both?

The experience of the tiger comes from the fires of the smithy that fashoned it. Those are hell-fires of Mephistophilis, ferocious in their evil.But it is made by the same God who made the innocent beauty of the lamb. The tiger burns bright , its eyes glowing coals of experience. There is beauty in it, born of a symmetry carefully crafted by a loving hand and a beauty eye. Why would God smile his work to see? Perhaps to see so much beauty in violence,accomplished in the same way as beauty in the lamb’s innocence.

The immortal eye or hand would frame the fearful symmetry lest it not overflow and contradict the lamb’s innocence.The intellectual cannot grasp a reality where symmetry can be so fearful, a paradox in which violence is integral part of beauty and becomes truth.A logical bottleneck is in the acceptance of a reality where the beauty of innocence co-exists with the symmetry of experience. Experience is the hell-fires that fashion the tiger’s symmetry, the deftness with which the hand and the eye have fashioned its form , a form that pleases the senses despite its fearfulness.

Only an immortal eye or hand could “frame” such a fearful symmetry. The metaphor used is smithy with tools like the hammer , the chain and the furnace. Framing would imply containing the contradicting elements of the composition – beauty of the tiger’s form with the fierceness of its posture. The fearfulness is accomplished by twisting the sinews of its heart with an amazing art and by a powerful shoulder. The tiger is beautiful form pleasing to the eye but its fierceness flows from its heart , a terror achieved after the sinews are hammered into place and the heart starts beating.

Once the heart starts beating, what hand dare seize the fire,what wings aspire! Who is the “he” who is supposed to aspire on wings? Surely not Icarus of waxen wings aspiring to the sun or the child monkey God of the Hindu pantheon who climbed the skies to eat the fruit of a sun and burnt his mouth red.

What immortal hand or eye dare
Frame they fearful symmetry

A mortal hand or eye cannot dare frame such symmetry .It will be singed by the fires of the tiger’s being.It is only God who can dare to do it or clasp its deadly terrors. It is He who created its symmetry.To frame is to capture the very essence of the tiger’s being.

Some lovely usages that have caught my fancy are

Burning bright
Burning bright denotes more light than heat

The forests of the night
A beautiful mixing of space with time

Immortal hand or eye

Hand or eye is hand or eye in the abstract because it is part of an immortal body. hand because the blacksmith forges with his hand to shape but uses eye to decide proportions.

Frame
Frame is used here in the context of taming uncontrolled nature, in order to bring about symmetry

Aspire
I am not sure if the poet meant the aspiring Icarus whose wings melted in the sun.

In what distant deeps
In the netherworld that is hell with its blazing fires

Did he smile his work to see?
I love the line for the simplicity of this highly graphic image . God smiles down on the tiger with an artist’s pleasure ( looking at the work of art he had created)

What shoulder , What art
Shoulder is the smith’s physical labour involved in shaping the object. Art is the brain involved in bringing symmetry to the finished product.

Twisting the sinews of thy heart
The process of forging the heart is almost physical like twisting the sinews tightly to ensure they are in place.