Introduction

The poet has written this poem to emphasize the diminishing number of tigers: He also makes mention of the lost father tiger Sheru to stimulate empathy. Right at the start, he makes an emotive plea to the readers about the need of recognizing the tiger’s tragic fate. The tigers are pursued by poachers for their skin, which is used as decoration, and their bones, which are used in Chinese medicine and are said to revive ailing men.

Theme of the poem

The poem describes the beauty and misery of tigers. The poet has provided descriptions of how tigers have been treated both historically and currently. In this poem, the author condemns the slaughter of tigers and denounces the stupidity of those who engage in tiger hunting.

Stanza 1

The tiger isn’t burning bright 
Either in shadow or in sun, 
The tiger family is thinking 
Two by two and one by one.     
   

By stating that tigers are disappearing two by two and one by one, the poet calls our attention to the declining population of tigers. The tiger’s flame is dim. The tiger family is contemplating whether to stay in the shade or the sun. 

Stanza 2

  The tiger isn’t burning bright 
In the forests of the night 
Or in the wilderness of day, 
We need to understand his plight.    

The tiger is no longer shining brightly in  the daytime woods or the night time forests. The poet conveys a gentle appeal that his situation must be understood.

Stanza 3

The father Sheru’s missing now. 
Sheru has been shot and skinned, 
Poachers ground his bones to powder 
For some Chinese medicine.

The poet laments the disappearance of the tiger’s father, Sheru. He adds that Sheru had been assassinated, butchered, and his bones had been pounded to powder for some Chinese medicine by some self-centered poachers.

Stanza 4 & 5

   Bones would bring them power, they thought, 
Put life into some sickly man. 
Their souls were sick. Killing tigers 
Is something we won’t understand?

His skin is hanging on a wall; 
His bones are packed in plastic white 
And shipped out. A gecko on the wall 
Is hunting insects on his hide.     

The poachers believed that bones would give them power. They believed it would breathe life into a sick man. However, in reality, their lifeless spirits were the ones that needed repair. The poet believes that killing tigers is never justified. The dead tiger’s bones were sent out in white plastic together with his skin, which is hung on a wall. And a gecko on the wall is using his hide to capture insects.

Stanza 6

   Once jungles trembled at his roar; 
Tree tops flew up- birds disappeared! 
Monkeys screamed (what an uproar!), 
Now geckoes nibble on his ear!     

Once there was a time, as he roared, the jungles shook, the birds dispersed, and the treetops soared up. His existence would create a frenzy. And in his present condition, geckos are biting at his ear!

Stanza 7

Lord God had stamped upon his skin 
In equal  stripes both night and dawn. 
His black-and gold won’t shimmer now. 
Boar-hunter, forest King-he’s gone

The Lord God has equally spaced stripes from daylight to night imprinted on his flesh. His black and gold will no longer shine. The “Boar-hunter” and “Forest King” have vanished.