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A Poison Tree by William Blake

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Thomas Potter

on 14 November 2013

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Transcript of A Poison Tree by William Blake

A Poison Tree by William Blake
I was angry with my friend
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
First Stanza
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
Second Stanza
And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
Third Stanza
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
Fourth Stanza
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
Symbols
Blake's poem, although relatively short, is rich with symbols. Virtually every line has what could be thought of as a double meaning.
More Symbols
Blake uses smiles and wiles to convey to us the depth of his anger, while giving us a feeling of being tired due to the fact that he is attempting to mask his anger. Both smiles and wiles are symbols of false happiness.
Even More Symbols!
The foe "beheld it shine".
Death by Poison Apple
Blake refers to a "garden" in his poem. There are a great many different uses of the word "garden" in history, but most likely, in this case he was drawing a connection between the garden in his poem, and the Garden of Eden which was referred to in the first book of the Bible.
The Garden
Perhaps the most clear example of symbolism is not written in clear words. Rather it is in the subtext of this poem. The foe, by consuming the apple from the poison tree, ultimately was found dead. Several links can be easily made from this, but the most clear is the fact that Blake's anger grew so extreme that it caused the foe to die, but not from Blake directing his anger towards the foe. The cause of death was that the foe's actions were bad. They intruded where they didn't belong and stole
William Blake
28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827
Presented by Thomas Potter
Blake starts out his poem with a simple problem solved scenario. He was upset with a friend of his, and because of the fact that he used communication, the problem was quickly solved.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
The second half of the first stanza tells of a completely different scenario! The speaker tells the reader that they are upset with someone that they don't like, but instead of using good communication to resolve the problem as they did in the first half of the stanza, they let it fester.
Blake is telling us in the first half of stanza two, quite eloquently, that his anger is being "watered" by his tears. We can tell how upset the speaker is due to the fact that we all know how mad we have to be to cry out of anger.
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
The reader is telling us that his anger is compounded even further due to the fact that he is hiding behind a false smile and his attempt to hide his true feelings.
We all know that anger is really tiresome and that when a person is tired, they are more sensitive to basic emotions such as anger.
Blake tells his readers that eventually his anger grew so much that it bore fruit. The apple here is a metaphor for what happens when a person's anger is not kept in check, just as the tree is a metaphor for what happens when a person's anger is not resolved quickly.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
Blake tells his readers that his enemy finally realized that he was upset, and we can assume that the enemy didn't think that the anger was of any concern due to the fact that Blake explains that the reader saw it "shine". Blake isn't painting the apple as a bad thing.
In the first half of the final stanza, Blake tells us that the enemy was up to no good. He uses the word stole to signify to us the fact that the enemy is doing a bad thing.
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree
The final two lines are very significant here because it tells us that the the reader was sleeping, minding his own business, and that the enemy had consumed the apple, which was what lead to their demise. A person just can't eat a stolen apple from a poison tree and live to tell about it.
Anger toward a friend is the first example of symbolism. The friend could be an actual friend, an acquaintance, a relative, or a passerby on the road of life.
And I watered it in fears, night & morning with my tears; fears and tears are both examples of anger.
The most obvious symbol in the entire poem is Blake's use of the word tree. It is a manifestation of his anger.
And I sunned it with smiles, and with soft deceitful wiles.
The Apple!
This is perhaps the biggest and most clear example in the entire poem. The apple is a symbol of Blake's anger. He became so upset that his anger took on physical characteristics.
The words, "beheld it shine" is highly important because of the fact that it tells us that the foe has not only noticed the apple, but we can envision them holding it up in front of their eyes, gazing longingly at it.
The most likely scenario as to why he chose this word was because of it's symbolism. When the reader sees the word garden, they picture purity, growth, and order. By the enemy stealing into Blake's garden, they are disrupting the purity, stamping on growth, and dislodging the natural order of the garden. The reader gets a sense of disharmony when we read that the foe, "into the garden stole".
what wasn't theirs to begin with.
Blake only attended school until he was 10 years old. Thereafter, he was essentially home schooled.
He was an avid reader during this time, and heavily influenced by some of people we now call, "The Greats". He also thoroughly read and believed the Bible, but did not necessarily agree with organized religion.
Blake was trained to be an engraver before attending college at the Royal Academy of Arts, and after finishing up there, got a job as an etcher. Etching was what Blake was most famous for at the time. While other etchers practiced their standard etching methods, Blake preferred relief etching. Said to be more difficult though more elegant than standard etching. Blake often used this kind of etching alongside his more famous works of poetry and literature.
Blake's marriage to his wife Catherine could easily be one of the centuries most epic love stories! They were the closest of friends as well as colleagues. Initially, he taught her how to read and write, and she would eventually go on to help him with a great deal in his works.
The day he died, Blake told Catherine to hold still so that he could draw her portrait, the portrait of what he considered an angel. He was buried the night before their 45th wedding anniversary.
Catherine followed him to the afterlife four short years later.
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