Titles from Poetry: Blake vs Marvell

During the recent Nebula weekend, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden and I started to consider whether there are more science fiction and fantasy titles taken from Blake’s “The Tyger” or from Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” I don’t think there are any other poems that could even compete, except possibly Yeats’s “The Second Coming.” I decided to do an actual count and find out.





Blake wrote “The Tyger”in 1794, and here it is:

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 watered 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?

Tiger! Tiger! is of course the UK title for Alfred Bester’s classic The Stars My Destination (1956). Tyger Tyger, with that spelling, is the first volume of Kersten Hamilton’s YA fantasy Goblin Wars Series (2011). It’s also the title of a short story by Neal Asher.

Tiger Burning Bright is a fantasy novel by Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley (1995). It’s also the title of short stories by Ray Bradbury and Christopher Morgan.

Just plain Burning Bright is an excellent space opera by Melissa Scott (1993). It’s also the title of novels by Janine Ashbless, Tom Dowd, and Jay Russell and short stories by Fergus Bannon, John S. Browning, K.D. Wentworth, Tanya Huff, Robert Moore Williams, Lucy A. Snyder, Kylie Seluka, Liz Holliday and Elaine Cunningham.

(I think Isaac Asimov’s Quasar, Quasar, Burning Bright also deserves a mention here.)

In the Forests of the Night is a YA vampire novel by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (2000). Kersten Hamilton’s second Goblin Wars book is also In the Forests of the Night (2012). It has been used for short stories by Robert Weinberg and Jay Lake. S. Andrew Swann’s first novel is just Forests of the Night, about a tiger-human hybrid PI in future Cleveland (1993). Tanith Lee has a collection of the same title. It has also been used for short stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Michael Pendragon, Abigail Hilton,

One of Swann’s sequels is Fearful Symmetries (1999). Audrey Niffenegar’s 2012 ghost fantasy Her Fearful Symmetry. Olivia Woods has a Deep Space Nine novel called Fearful Symmetry, and James Luceno has a Philip K. Dick Award nominated near future thriller called A Fearful Symmetry. Algis Budrys wrote a short story called That Fearful Symmetry, and just “Fearful Symmetry” has been used as a short story title by Tyler Kevil, David Sandner and Jacob Weissman, and Minsoo Kang.

David Drake has a MilSF novel about a galactic struggle called What Distant Deeps! I think he deserves extra praise for picking a phrase nobody else has used and for one that’s so very appropriate to his book.

Michael A. Martin wrote a Star Trek novel called Seize the Fire, and it’s also the title of a short story by Mary Hoffmann.

“The Sinews of His Heart” is a short story by Melissa Yuan-Innes.

“When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears” is a short story by John Morrisey.

I make that forty four titles from this short poem, which is amazing.

Andrew Marvell wrote To His Coy Mistress probably in the 1650s, and it’s one of my favourite poems and I know it all by heart without ever having sat down to learn it. Here it is:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

        But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

        Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

World Enough and Time is a science fiction adventure novel by James Kahn. Dan Simmons has a collection with the title Worlds Enough and Time. Sarah Hoyt has a short story called “But World Enough“, and there are stories called “World Enough and Time” by Gillian Hovarth, Sean O’Brien, Donna Lettow, and John B. Rosenman.

Bruce Gillespie has a short story called “Vegetable Love”. Ursula Le Guin has terrific SF short story called “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”. In addition, Alison Lonsdale and Donna Knez both have stories called “Vaster Than Empires.”

Ben Jeapes has a fantasy novel called Winged Chariot and another called Time’s Chariot.

Peter S. Beagle has a ghost fantasy called A Fine and Private Place and Thomas F. Monteleone has a short story of the same title.

That’s all I can find. I make that fifteen, from a much longer poem, which puts Blake unquestionably ahead.

Thanks to ISFDB and Fantastic Fiction Co UK. If anyone can think of any more genre titles from these poems, please post them in comments!


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo nominated and Nebula Award winning Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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