A Poison Tree

October 10, 2012
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In “A Poison Tree,” by William Blake teaches how anger can be dispelled by goodwill or nurtured to become a deadly poison. It is appropriate that poems touching on Biblical themes should be expressed like this in which a spiritual meaning is expressed in a vivid story. The opening stanza sets up everything for the entire poem, from the ending of anger with the “friend,” to the continuing anger with the “foe.” Blake startles the reader with the clarity of the poem, and with metaphors that can apply to many instances of life.

Blake also uses several forms of figurative language. He works with a simple AABB rhyme scheme to keep his poem flowing. These ideals allow him to better express himself in terms that a reader can truly understand. These forms of language better help authors to express their feelings and thoughts that would not normally be able to be expressed by words.

The personification in “A Poison Tree” exists both as a means by which the poem's metaphors are revealed, supported, and as a way for Blake to forecast the greater illustration of the wrath. The wrath the speaker feels is not directly personified as a tree, but as something that grows slowly and bears fruit. In the opening stanza the speaker states, “My wrath did grow.” The speaker later describes the living nature of the wrath as one which, “grew both day and night,” and, “bore an apple bright.” This comparison by personification of wrath to a tree illustrates the speaker's idea that, like the slow and steady growth of a tree, anger and wrath gradually accumulate and form just as mighty and deadly as a poisoned tree.

To understand the metaphorical sense of the poem, one must first examine the title, “A Poison Tree,” which alerts the reader that some type of metaphor will stand to dominate the poem. In the second stanza, Blake employs several metaphors that reflect the growing and nurturing of a tree which compare to the feeding of hate and vanity explored by the speaker. The verses, “And I watered it …with my tears” show how the tears life lead an object of destruction. The speaker goes further to say, “And I sunned it with smiles” describing not only false intentions, but the processing of “sunning”, giving nutrients to a plant so that it may not only grow and live, but flourish. In both of these metaphors, the basic elements for a tree to survive, water and sunlight are shown in human despair and sadness.

The religious context of the poem is also evident in two metaphorical allusions made by the speaker towards the end of the poem. The deadly fruit borne of the tree is an apple, while the scene of death and treachery occurs in the speaker's garden. The apple is a product of hate, the ironic “fruits of one's labor,” and a biblical metaphor for sin. This co notates that destruction will occur if the tree is showered with sour emotions. The garden, which could be viewed as a place of life and prosperity, is simply the stage for the sinful act, as it was in the Bible. Like the events of the biblical story of Adam and Eve, man gives in to the weakness of sin and falls.

Blake's poetry, while easy to understand and simplistic, usually implies a moral motif on an almost basic level. The powerful figurative language in “A Poison Tree” is so apparent that it brings forth an apparent message as well. The poem is not a celebration of wrath; rather it is Blake's cry against it. Through this, Blake warns the reader of the dangers of repression and of rejoicing in the sorrow of our foes.

William Blake wrote this poem to convey a simple message. “A Poison Tree” may be one of Blake’s simpler poems, but is just as effective of getting its message across. He used figurative language as a way to express his point that anything beautiful in life can be contorted to something disgusting if shown ugly emotions.





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