I’ve lately been pondering one of the “Proverbs of Hell” from William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell that I previously hadn’t really given much thought to.

“The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.”

I think when I first read it I thought he was saying something about a vicious beast or predator being wiser than a philosopher – and that’s a pretty unsettling thought – so I never cared much for the proverb and thought it was one I was never going to ever really deeply ponder.

the tygers of wrath

Well, I was recently attacked by a gang of three. I was told I was choked, made to say horrific and humiliating things, and banged up from head to hip. As I write this, I have no recollection of it. I only – so far – remember the moment just before I was able to escape. Even then it is spotty. I have flashbacks of a more violating experience earlier in the evening in a different room. I’ve been attacked several times before in my days, but never battery by a gang.

I recently met this proverb about the tygers of wrath again and – with painful and fearful aftershocks of this event often flashing in my mind and nerves – it seemed to take on a new and expanded meaning – because a proverb, like a good poem, has a lot of multiple metaphorical symmetry going on.

I take the proverb now – in Blake’s usually vivid and dynamically metaphysical imagery – to mean, “experience is the best teacher.” (or… it could also be applied as “a horse of instruction shouldn’t try to teach a tyger of wrath anything … ever… period. The End.”, basically, “know when to shut up” or it will not end well).

Tygers are wild animals brought up by harsh and unforgiving environments, whereas a horse is domesticated by people – often elite, educated. Horses may enter the hunting grounds, but always in the company of their master who is usually armed. So, when a horse meets a tyger, it had better watch out – or at least, make sure it doesn’t cross it, because there’s no point in the horse explaining its point of view of an escalated situation to a tyger’s teeth.

Or, as C-3PO may tell R2, “Let the wookie win.”

let the wookie win

So here it is.

After all, the proverbs are worded differently in hell.

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There are, of course, the classics from “Proverbs of Hell” that say similar things:

“the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”

“if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise”

but there are some things that are better – or, rather, more quickly and viscerally – learned from the “tygers of wrath.”

Sure, I would have said and done some things differently that night. If the attack was use of force to change my behavior – it was excessive.

When a situation becomes escalated, sometimes communication is impossible no matter how desperately one of the parties wants to reach understanding – even (and depending on the company – especially) if said party has an interpreter droid.

Or, it could have simply been an unavoidable random act of violence and my mind is just trying to identify and implement some corrections to ensure my body is never subjected to this sort of thing again. Who knows. I’ve reached a point where thinking incessantly about it isn’t doing me any good.

So, I’ve learned a couple of lessons (whether they are related to the attack or not), licking my wounds, and looking to the horizon again.

For now, “the fox condemns the trap, not himself.”

So, the pain and trauma will be things I just had to experience to bring me a little closer to wisdom – or, I’ve at least rewritten it that way.

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There is also this – the tyger is a wild beast who has no fetters, no education, no master. It acts. The horse is told or instructed what to do by someone else – living in society. It reminds me of that French poem of the fox who talks to the dog. The dog says he is free and his master lets him do what he pleases. The fox then asks the dog why the hair under his collar is always pressed to his skin – after all, the hair on the fox’s neck have never been pressed down.

The tyger runs because it just does – the moment requires it.