Some poems use vivid images to convey the poets’ message to the reader while some use quite abstract images. Choose two poems to show these two approaches and discuss.

Poems used are ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake and ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas.


The use of imagery is a common literary device in poetry, specifically used to allow readers an attractive presentation of the poet’s true message. Some poets employ concrete imagery to allow a vivid picture of their metaphoric references. Abstract imagery opens up the meaning to the readers’ individual interpretation, rather than directing towards the poets’ actual intention.

William Blake makes use of vivid imagery in his poem, ‘The Tyger’. Using the persona of a child, Blake illustrates his concept through a picture of a tiger and the certain length God had taken to produce such a magnificent beast. Although Blake does not directly question God’s intentions, he delivers a transparent message where he asks God why evil stands alongside innocence.

Blake begins his poem acknowledging a tiger ‘burning bright, in the forests of the night’. Comparison between the fiery yellow complexion of the tiger rebels (?) against the dark colour of the night. Blake’s vivid portrayal allows readers to clearly imagine this magnificent beast giving off a striking contrast with the dark background of the forest. Blake continues to address every feature of the deadly beast, asking how it’s Creator seized such tools and elements to design it’s ‘fearful symmetry’. Blake asks which place in either Heaven or Hell was capable of maintaining the ‘fire of thine(tiger’s) eyes’, and what hand could manage to encounter this fire and implant it in the tiger’s eyes. The persona lies astounded by the skillfulness of the tiger’s Creator, and directs his questions to God, asking about His own power. What kind of physical ability was so substantial to have been able to sculpt this majestic beast of such potential to cause harm. ‘And what shoulder, and what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart?’ This certain choice of words project a graphic picture of God twisting the ‘sinews’ of the tiger’s heart, the very source of it’s life. The persona, with it’s childish tone, compares God to a blacksmith, and asks how powerful must have been His tools that could model the tiger, just as a blacksmith models his creations. In the fifth stanza, Blake asks whether God was proud to establish such ferocity on Earth. He claims that the stars expressed their sorrows by ‘water(ing) heaven with their tears’, having seen such ruthlessness being unleashed to roam on the same place where the docile lamb exists. The contrast between the lamb and the tiger symbolizes the existence of innocence and cruelty in this world, and induces readers to ask “Why?”.

Structuring his poem according to the trochaic meter and a similar rhythm to the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, Blake manages to direct readers into asking the purpose of God. He produces a simple description of the tiger representing the existence of evil. His imagery is very vivid, which allows a very comprehensive response in readers.  He produces a parallelism between the dark depths of the human heart that hold both destructive and creative energy. Blake notes that often the destructive forces seem more attractive, a feature that is also a condition of the divine will- where God’s tigers are burning bright, while his lamb, the symbol of love, seem so vulnerable.

On the other hand, Dylan Thomas is very vague when describing his metaphors in ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’. He sends a message to his father, who is on the verge of death, to not die without a fight. This he illustrates through a series of examples that death is conclusive, because no solid evidence proves it to be otherwise.

Using day and night metaphors to represent life and death respectively, Thomas urges his father to not be meek when encountered with the ‘good night’. Instead, he pleads his father to be vengeful against the ‘dying of the light’. Thomas does not explore the imagery used thoroughly, leaving it open to readers own interpretation of what he truly meant. Thomas continues to use abstract imagery to prove his point, professing what even though Prophets and preachers of religion, or in other terms ‘wise men’, believe in life after death, they are aware that their words are not definite, and thus they do not submit to death with ease either. Thomas explains the ambiguity of the claims of ‘wise men’ by saying that their words had ‘forked no lightning’, referring to a dark area which is only identified clearly when a lightning flashes and illuminates the area making it perceivable. Then Thomas uses a foggy ocean of eternity and a green ‘bay’ to acknowledge life and death. ‘Good men’ who are sailing into the sea of death, live by with their ‘frail deeds’ which dance in the ‘green bay’ of life, meaning one does not truly die if one dies as a good man, his actions living eternally in the hearts of those alive. In the third stanza, Thomas uses the example of adventurous souls who die on their ventures, realizing how truly mistaken they were to have chosen a life where they have no one to grieve for their deaths. Thomas gestures towards the men who were blinded by the flash of death’s approach by the statement that their blind eyes ‘blaze like meteors’ when confronted by the ‘good night’. In his final stanza, Thomas returns to his father who stands on a ‘sad height’ – detached from life and nearing death. Thomas begs for a simple response of aggression, even allowing him to ‘curse’ Thomas if he wills, just to signal that there is life still in him.

However difficult to apprehend, Thomas does produce a brilliant writing, clarifying his purpose to prove that death should be fought against. He has an excellent use of diction, making his poem a smooth read. Metaphors are frequently used to conform to the imagery used and produce a much more smoother illustration of the images used. The poem is structured according to the Italian villanelle, its rhyming scheme strictly tied down to ‘night’ and ‘day’ both connotations of ‘death’ and ‘life’ respectively as well as using a continuous rhythm of ABA, only refraining from it on the final stanza, where the rhythm ABAA is used. The contrasting themes of life and death in the form of day and night also add intensity and compactness to the message Thomas intends to send. Thomas’s inclusion of various literary devices, and the rhyming format makes it a complicated, yet enthralling text.

Blake and Thomas are vibrant in their choice of wording, differing mainly in the different employment of imagery, where Blake applies vivid imagery, Thomas uses the abstract form of imagery. I find that both the poets were successful in their application of the literary devices, and managed to generate an emotion inducing production of both poems.

See What Else We've Written

Scroll to Top