A Poison Tree William Blake Analysis

The British poet William Blake was an artist in addition to being a poet. His vision helped him write poetry on the human psyche as obvious from an in-depth analysis of the most-read poem “A Poison Tree” by William Blake. He belongs to the romantic era but unlike Keats, his poetry is not only for the sake of poetry but he wants to convey some important messages through his poetry. He wants to explore the world of human nature, psychology as well as the power of human emotions. Blake did not gain much fame during his lifetime but subsequently, after his death, much innovative use of language and themes related to spirituality were found in his poetry.

William Blake’s two famous collections of poems are:

  1. Songs of Innocence.
  2. Songs of Experience
A Poison Tree William Blake Analysis

“A Poison Tree” William Blake Analysis

The poem a poison tree was initially published in the year 1974.  it was added to the collection of “Songs of Experience”. In this poem, the poet talks about human anger and the passion for taking revenge on enemies. In addition, he explores anger as the most destructive human emotion.

“A Poison Tree” William Blake Summary

The poem starts with a story. The poet tells that once he was angry with his friend but at the time when he expressed his anger to him he found peace. Soon after he discussed issues with his friend he was able to find serenity. In the same way, he was angry with his friend but did not tell him anything. He held the grudge against his foe which grew day by day. Ultimately it turned into poison due to the passion for revenge that the poet wanted from his enemy. In the end, the poet sees his enemy lying beneath a tree dead. It was because of the grudge that he had against his enemy. 

In this way, the poet talks about the negative emotions that everyone has. Indeed, everyone has negative as well as positive emotions. The expression of emotions differentiates him from the others. Those who hold negative emotions leave a negative impact on society whereas those who have positive emotions have a positive impact on society as well the on their social circle.

The poet also talks about the importance of forgiveness and communication in life. In the first scenario, the poet was angry with his friend but he discusses it with him and resolves the issue ethically. It is the result of communication that the poet first has words with his friend and then forgives his mistakes. It helps him get rid of anger and the grudge that he had against his friend. 

The second scenario of the poem is entirely different from the first one. The poet does not express his wrathful emotions with his enemy and ultimately finds that it has caused harm not only to his mind but also to the mind of his friend. In short, the poet talks about human nature in this poem. 

Title of the Poem “A Poison Tree” by William Blake

The poet William Blake uses a metaphor to create an analysis of the primary theme through the title of the poem “A Poison Tree”. The title expresses one of the most important themes of this poem. “A Poison Tree” is a metaphor that the poet uses to indicate the negative emotions that humans possess. Like a plant, the poet nurtures his anger which ultimately becomes a tree full of poison and causes the death of his enemy. The word tree, hence, refers to the anger that the poet has against his foe.

The word “poison” suggests something dangerous. It may be the anger, the revenge and the negative thoughts that the poet has. He does not disclose it to anybody and finds that these emotions have destroyed him from the inside. The poet develops dramatically and the natural object of nature “Tree” becomes a most symbolic metaphor of the poem.

The title of the poet also expresses the idea of a toxic relationship between two people due to miscommunication or lack of communication. The relationship can be between two enemies, two friends, two partners or two lovers. The poet uses the image of a tree in order to suggest that these harmful emotions can take root and become deeply embedded in a person’s psyche. Thus, the title of the poem is also a highly symbolic theme of this poem.

Stanza One Analysis

The poet sets the tone of the poem. He tells a story to his readers. He talks about the grudge that he once had against his friend. The first two lines of the stanza emphasise the importance of communication in one’s life. The poet does not disclose the reason for his anger against his enemy. However, he says that when he talks about it and tells his friend about his anger, it fades and the poet finds relief from negative emotions. The phrase “my wrath did end” indicates a sigh of relief that the poet finds after expressing his anger with his friend. 

In the next two lines of this stanza, the poet illustrates an entirely different scenario. The poet talks about this scenario and explains it till the end of the poem. He does not express his anger to his friend. In fact, he does not communicate with him nor does he forgive him. Instead of using the word “angry”, he uses the word “wrath” to show that the anger was too much. He talks about emotions of intense anger. He says that he decides not to disclose this anger to his friend, hence, it “grows”. The poet ends the stanza while mentioning that “my wrath did grow”. This line shares the theme of the title of the poem “A Poison Tree”. 

Henceforth the first stanza of the poem discloses the primary theme of the poem. Firstly the poet talks about the importance of communication and then forgiveness. He also talks about negative emotions. He mentions anger and intense anger as two destructive human sentiments in the first stanza of the poem. In addition, William Blake creates an analysis of the human psyche in this stanza of “A Poison Tree” while mentioning that holding a grudge and not expressing it grows a passion for revenge in the heart.

Stanza Two Analysis

The poet knows how to use the technique of metaphor as the most powerful literary device. In literature, metaphor gives an object qualities of another object. For instance, the poet says that he “watered it [his anger] with fears”. He means to say that his anger is a tree and fear is water for him. The poet compares the anger with the tree and the water with fear to clarify that his fear helps the anger in growing as water helps a plant to grow. Thus, this metaphor is much important in the first line of this stanza.

The next line is about the repetition of the action of the poet. The poet waters his anger with fear twice a day “Night & morning”. The theme of overthinking also starts in this stanza. The poet thinks about it time and again. As much as he thinks as much his anger grows against his enemy.

The next two lines of this stanza seem opposite to the first two lines. The poet says that he smiles like a sun every time he sees his friend. However, these lines are ironic. He does not smile because he has to get rid of the grudge that he had against his friend; instead, he uses the word smile to say that he hides his anger from his enemy. The phrase “deceitful wiles” clears that the poet hides his wrath under his smile. He suppresses the negative emotions which creates a feeling of jealousy in his mind. 

Secondly, the word “deceitful” also expresses harmful emotions in the poem. Indeed, he wants to deceive his friend but at the same time, he also deceives himself while hiding intense emotions. Thus, this stanza of “A Poison Tree” is an analysis of the themes of resentment, holding grudges, the passion for taking revenge, nurturing anger and suppression of human emotions that William Blake illustrates symbolically.

Stanza Three Analysis

In the last stanza of the poem, the poet says that he waters the plant with fear and it grows. He has intense feelings of anger against his enemy which grows “day and night”. He nurtures it so much that it does not stop growing. The process is faster than the expectations. Finally, it bears fruit. The poet uses the words fruit but in fact, it is a poison that grows on the tree of anger. 

The shining fruit was seen by the enemy. The poet has hidden anger but now it has been revealed. The enemy has acknowledged that he wants revenge on him. The third line introduces the enemy’s perspective, as they “beheld” the apple shining. The second last line of this stanza suggests that the speaker’s anger is no longer hidden or concealed. It has become visible and tangible. The enemy can feel it from a distance due to the bright shining. The enemy also knows the poisonous feelings of the poet.

Stanza Four Analysis

William Blake being a romantic poet knows how to illustrate objects of nature in poetry. He creates vivid imagery of a garden. In fact, he sets a scene in the last stanza of the poem. The first line of the stanza introduces the idea of someone “stealing” into the speaker’s garden. It refers to the sense of danger as well as malice. The poet does not kill his enemy by stabbing him or by making any hard effort; instead, the enemy eats the fruit of the poison tree and dies. 

The act of the speaker is not of bravery; rather, the killing of the enemy was a covert and premeditated act as evident from the darkness and secrecy of the night that the poet mentions in the second line of the last stanza. 

Whatever may be the cause of the death of the enemy, the poet feels satisfaction. He is very much “glad” due to his death though it was an act of a coward. The theme of violence dominates the theme of revenge. The poet does not choose the way of a gentleman to resolve issues but he uses violence to resolve the conflict that was between him and his enemy. In this way, the poet conveys that the conflicts must be solved without any violence.

The final line of the poem describes the enemy as “outstretched beneath the tree,” which emphasizes the power and dominance of the “poison tree” as a symbol of the speaker’s negative emotions.

“A Poison Tree” William Blake Themes

There are many wonderful themes in “A Poison Tree” through which the poet William Blake creates an analysis of human nature. Some major and important themes of the poem are:

Anger as Destructive Human Emotion: The poet highlights the most dangerous human emotion. He talks about holding a grudge and growing anger in the heart against enemies as well as friends. The poem suggests that wrath may lead to destructive consequences. The poet presents two scenarios in this poem and creates a difference between the two. In the first scenario, he creates control of his emotions while expressing and talking with his friend but in the second scenario, he nurtures the fear and promotes negative emotions.

Communication and Forgiveness: The poet tells a simple story of a conflict between him and his friend. However, the theme of commutation is universal in nature. The poet says that communication is a great tool to solve many complex problems. The only difference between the first scenario and the second scenario is communication. Secondly, the poet also emphasizes the importance of forgiveness in maintaining healthy relationships. 

Human nature: Romantic poets rarely talks about human nature as deeply as William Blake does in his poems. “A Poison Tree” is a remarkable example of it. Uncontrolled human emotions cause much destruction. Thus, negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, and the desire for revenge must not be suppressed but nipped in the bud. The poem suggests that these emotions are universal and can be destructive if left unchecked.

Metaphorical Objects: There are many metaphorical objects in this poem. The “tree” is a metaphor for anger and the poison for revenge. The poet uses metaphorical language throughout the whole poem in order to convey the themes of this poem. The darkness in the poem shows the covert behaviour of the poet. 

“A Poison Tree” William Blake Symbols

Many important symbols are there in the poem that the poet uses deliberately. An analysis of important symbols in “A Poison Tree” by William Blake is:

The Poison Tree: The title of the poem becomes its most important symbol. The tree is a symbol of anger and the desire for revenge. The speaker wants revenge on his enemy. The tree grows day and night and the speaker nurtures it which means that negative emotions grow day by day. The fruit is full of poison which caused the death of the enemy.

The Garden: The poet uses the garden for imagery as well as for the growth of the tree. Symbolically and metaphorically, it is a place somewhere in the mind of the poet where the tree nurtures when he was watered with fear. 

The Apple: The apple represents the fruit of the poisonous tree, which the enemy eats unknowingly. This symbolises the way in which anger and revenge can have unintended consequences for others.

The Night: At night the enemy eats the fruit and dies. The night symbolises covertness.

“A Poison Tree William Blake Literary Devices

One of the best romantic poets William Blake creates an analysis of different themes through important literary devices in his poem “A Poison Tree”. Thus, the poem is rich in literary devices. Some of them are:

Personification: The poet personifies the tree in the poem. He gives it attributes of “growing,” “blossoming” and “smiling” which mostly belong to humans. It creates a sense of malevolence and danger associated with the tree.

Metaphor: The title of the poem is entirely metaphorical. In addition, the language of the poem is metaphorical. The poet uses the tree, night, nurture, fear and fruit as metaphors in the poem. 

Rhyme scheme: The poem follows an AABB rhyme scheme. Each stanza of the poem consists of two rhyming couplets. The poem has a sing-song quality.

Alliteration: In order to add musicality to the poem, the poet uses the literary device alliteration in his poem “A Poison Tree”. Several examples of alliteration are “watered in fears” and “wrath did end.” 

Imagery: The poet uses “Garden”, “tree” “fruit”, “enemy” and many other vital images in the poem with vivid descriptions of other natural objects. It blows a new soul to the poem and impacts the emotions of readers.

Irony: The second stanza of the poem is ironic. The poet resolves his anger with his friend quickly but anger towards a foe grows into a poisonous tree.

Repetition: The phrase “my foe” is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the distinction between the speaker’s friend and their enemy.

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