A Poison Tree by William Blake

4 April 2017

A Poison Tree by William Blake can be interpreted to be a metaphor that explains a truth of human nature. I believe that this poem teaches how anger can be dismissed by kindness and friendliness, and nurtured to become a deadly ‘poison’. 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 such clarity of the poem, which is often missed in Blake’s poems, and with metaphors that can apply to many events in life.

Blake portrays this by using several forms of figurative language. 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 project the greater illustration of 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 deadly as a poisoned tree. To understand the metaphorical theme of the poem, I believe you have to examine the title, A Poison Tree. This hints to the reader that some type of metaphor will be dominant throughout the poem.

A Poison Tree by William Blake Essay Example

In the second stanza, Blake uses 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 of life lead the deadly object that we know as A Poison Tree. The speaker goes on to say, “And I sunned it with smiles” describing not only false intentions, but the process 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 quotations made by the speaker towards the end of the poem. The deadly fruit born from 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, a biblical metaphor for sin. This connotates 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 feasts upon the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. 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 but it is Blake’s cry against it.

Through this, I believe that Blake warns the reader of the dangers of repression and of rejoicing in the sorrow of our foes. From this interpretation, I believe that 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 (the tree) can be contorted to something evil or disgusting if shown ugly emotions (poison).

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