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A Poison Tree

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A Poison Tree is a poem by William Blake. I will be analyzing this poem by explaining what it is about and breaking down different attributes such as theme and style. Before I get to all of that I will be placing a copy of the poem below so that you may follow along.

This is one of a group of 26 poems that William Blake published in 1793. The poems collectively are known as Songs of Experience. Blake said that his poems are about what he calls a state of “innocence,” and how it turns in on itself after it has been suppressed and forced to conform to rules, systems, and doctrines, which he calls a state of “experience”. This also comes from the fall of innocence experienced by Adam and Eve when they ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

In the first quatrain he is speaking from his own experience, he is angry at his friend. He told his friend that he was angry and this caused the anger to go away. I know that might seem too straight forward, but I am sure that it is just like it says. He ties the first bit together with a nice rhyme in the words “friend” and “end”. In the second verse he says he was angry at his foe and didn’t tell him and then he got more angry. This again I believe is straight forward and what actually happened.

I also teaches a lesson; If we keep things bottled up in side it can make them worse and can only lead to further anger and frustration. The second verse also backs up everything we heard in the first. By this I mean telling his friend he was angry made him feel better, but not telling his foe made him feel worse. It comes right in and backs up everything we are learning in the small lesson. In the second quatrain he talks about how he made his anger get worse. It makes it sound like his anger is a garden.

He waters the garden in his tears and sulking. This helps the garden of anger grow strong and fruitful. He isn’t making a lesson in this quatrain like the first one was. In this one he is just examining the process for the reader. He also starts to use metaphor at this point. When he speaks of his growing wrath he does not say his wrath, but rather refers to it as a plant and how it grows. I had to at this point look up the word “wiles” it basically means tricks used to deceive someone. In this case he is lying a trap for the person he calls his foe.

He pretends to be friendly to his foe and this also seems to only strengthen his hate or wrath. His smiles at his foe are like sunshine on the plant and the more he smiles, the more his wrath grows. After tricking his foe into thinking he was his friend with all these false smiles and politeness, his wrath never fades. Even when his foe dies from the poison he is delighted as if vengeance was the greatest thing. This leads into what I consider the theme. The theme is anger cultivation; you see “A poison tree” is not anger.

It is the cultivation of anger. Suppressing anger by burying it rather than letting it out turns anger into the seed. Cultivating this seed through all the anger of the angry person the seed grows into a great wrath and destructive thing. I now will like to explain the style of the poem. It is mostly written in Iambic Tetrameter because it has four iambic feet to it. It does however deviate from this a bit time and again through the poem, but I would say that is the main styling of A Poison Tree.

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