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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.

when you keep something bottled up inside. but this time he's mad at his enemy. now. and presumably why he was angry. a spat if you will. but didn't tell him about it.  Since the speaker did not talk about his anger ("I told it not"). Not good. his anger got bigger and bigger ("my wrath did grow"). he told his friend he was angry ("I told my wrath"). He keeps mum about his anger for his enemy and. and his continued deception about his true feelings. Yum! At least the speaker's enemy thinks so. (Spoiler alert: Check out "Form and Meter" for more on this.a. the speaker is happy to see that his foe lying dead under the tree that bore the (apparently poison) apple. Scenario #2: We get the same basic set-up here. that anger just grows. in an odd. Bad times. he (we're assuming it's a he) is in a tiff with his friend.  Still.  The speaker describes a different scenario. the speaker's anger blossoms into an apple. We wonder if this form will continue. it tends to make that feeling more intense and overwhelming? We're guessing that this is what's going on for the speaker here. Will he follow the same route? You bet your bippy he won't. the power of communication. and his anger disappeared. But wait! There's no need to fret.) Lines 3-4 I was angry with my foe: I told it not. One night. Happy days are here again!  We notice that these lines are linked with end rhyme and a pretty consistent rhythm. He was once angry with his "foe" (a. The speaker's mad again.k. he sneaks into the speaker's garden (presumably for a delicious apple snack). . The next morning. but it doesn't work out so well for him. Then. STANZA 1 SUMMARY Lines 1-2 I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath. well. my wrath did grow. In the first.  You know how. He told his friend about his anger and… guess what? His anger went away. The speaker's anger is only heightened by his fears. metaphorical twist. the speaker describes how he was angry with his friend.  As the poem opens. his enemy). Presto! Ah. my wrath did end.The speaker is presenting two scenarios here.

 He watered it with his "fears" and his "tears" and made sure it got plenty of sunshine. Is anger a good thing in the world of this poem? Lines 9-12 And it grew both day and night. though. . his anger seems to dig it. Instead. really cunning traps). a symbol of life. he treats this anger very much like a plant. are super-deceitful tricks (or really." "Deceitful wiles. we know that the speaker didn't give his anger-plant real sunshine.  The speaker talks more about how his anger grows. And I sunned it with smiles." These are more like "fake" sunshine. or deceitful trick.  A wile is a "crafty.  Now. Till it bore an apple bright. positive thing. It seems ironic that a growing plant is being compared to a growing anger. And with soft deceitful wiles." then. Whatever it is. The speaker suggests that he is a very deceptive person and that he is planning something very sinister and mischievous.  A growing plant is usually a good. he gave it "smiles" and "deceitful wiles. And my foe beheld it shine. A plant needs water and sun in order to grow. since those deceitful schemes are like sunshine to it.Lines 5-8 And I watered it in fears. Night and morning with my tears.  They help the plant to grow—like real sunshine would for a real plant. Using figurative language. cunning. and so apparently does his anger.. And he knew that it was mine.

 The word "stole" is a past tense of the verb "steal." pole refers to the top of the earth. it's safe to say that's how he knows it is the speaker's. The enemy sees the fruit of the speaker's wrath. Uh-oh! . also known as the North star. It seems that the speaker is blaming his foe. So. covered it up. is not visible.  That doesn't stop the enemy from trying to steal it. It's not clear how. In the phrase "night had veiled the pole." This word also suggests "steal" (like a thief steals). and somehow he's able to recognize that it belongs to the speaker." which in this context means something like "sneak in secretly." Yum!  Wait. After he has seen the apple. used in navigating folks safely through danger. Tonight. or calling him a thief.  Let's read on to see if that's explained later in the poem… Lines 13-16 And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole. also known as Polaris. It's an important star for navigation. though.  This happens when it's super-dark out. the night has "veiled" it. In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree.  Aha! The enemy has seen this anger-apple in the speaker's garden. though. This star. is this apple a good thing?  The speaker's enemy sure thinks so. since it's bright and it stays pretty much fixed in the sky. as in the "north pole. his plant (anger) eventually bears ("bore") fruit: an "apple bright." but it can also mean the pole star. the "foe" sneaks into the speaker's garden at night. Because of the speaker's efforts. though.

since the speaker would likely not be too happy if his enemy both ate his apple and used his garden like a cheap hotel. at some point in the super-dark night. Do you know anyone who really. revenge. no matter what they do. We're going to go with death for the enemy here. Blake is really indulging and exploring his darker side. although the speaker is glad to see him laid out in the garden. and the darker side of the human condition by extension. it seems like bad times for the enemy. Or is it? A POISON TREE INTRODUCTION "A Poison Tree. the enemy eats the apple. which ends up killing him or making him fall asleep. It's a poem about anger." or it can refer to the speaker's feelings when he sees his "foe" lying "beneath the tree. It's not clear which."  Either way.  Still. which contrast markedly with many of the poems in the Songs of Innocence that feature. "Glad" could refer to the morning. always manages to get under your skin? Maybe it's a roommate who refuses to take out the trash or do the dishes. the word "glad" is a bit ambiguous here (it could have more than one meaning). well. . really annoys you? Somebody who. appears in Songs of Experience." as you've probably figured out by now. good times for the speaker. as in "the morning is glad. To suggest that the night (an abstract time) could actually cover up the star (like a person might) is to use personification. In this poem. and death (some of Blake's favorite themes). or perhaps it's a sibling who always listens to their music too loud when you're trying to study or insists on taking the front seat of the car all the time.  Apparently. happier trees and more benign themes.

The apple that appears on the tree of anger symbolizes that poisonous effect. though in a more gruesome fashion. The speaker of the poem reveals to his friend that he is angry. The anger poisoned the soil of the tree creating poison fruit. Perhaps this can. it won't turn into an apple that will kill your enemy. and revenge was successful. Sure. But when the speaker hides his anger from his enemy. Granted. The extended metaphor is comparing anger to a plant (the poison tree of the title). everything becomes much simpler? If you don't say anything. If we refuse to talk to people about what they're doing that is bugging us. it's actually impossible—but it's really an extended metaphor for how destructive anger can be. and it is this experience that William Blake's poem discusses. we will become wicked. "water" and "sun" (in Blake's terms) our anger until it blossoms into a poisonous apple. He was correct. growing a poison apple with nothing but hate is a pretty unlikely scenario—well. by ignoring or suppressing anger. If we ignore or deny our feelings. This becomes a kind of original sin. at the very least. What is the theme of the poem "The Poison Tree"? William Blake's allegorical poem. In a sense. we. There is a secondary metaphor implied by the apple. we're the ones who really suffer. There's a good chance that you're familiar with this experience." is concerned with the subject of anger. There are several possible interpretations for those last two lines. as the . To clarify. the anger grows. The process of cultivating one's emotions (as seen in the line " And I watered it in fears") is compared to cultivating a plant. we are also poisoned. The final line is ominous. though. and makes you more miserable by the minute. "A Poison Tree. and grows. but it can become something equally destructive. One possible option is that the speaker's wrath killed the other man. The fact that the tree is "poison" tells us that. and he did nothing about it.Have you ever noticed that when you talk to them reasonably about what they're doing that makes you angry. the speaker's delight at the "foe outstretched beneath the tree" offers a warning about what happens when we suppress our anger. But sometimes a confrontation is in order. ease our internal trouble and prevent us from harming others. The emotion is followed through an entire growth cycle. The speaker was angry. He knew the enemy would be tempted by the fruit. Just think: there have been many troubled people who have "snapped" and gone on to do something just as destructive (just think of the school shootings alone over the last twenty years or so). sometimes it's easier just to walk away. bitter. your anger just festers and grows. Blake's poem urges us (you included!) to talk about our anger and frustrations—not just with our friends. Blake is tied the anger of the poem with the pride of the biblical story of Adam and Eve. essentially. much like a tree. The tone is very matter-of-fact with a hint of satisfaction. we admit. until it blossoms into death. and even vengeful. but with our enemies as well. and the anger dissipates. Now.

and that poison often does great damage to the person you are angry with. and his foe. but think of the consequences of blowing up at someone. so that it can "end" in a better way." The wrath becomes so large and noticeable that Blake uses a metaphor of an apple growing from a tree to describe how it feels to him. outstretched on the ground.speaker of the poem kept his wrath within him instead of speaking about it. A Poison Tree Summary First Quatrain On first contact with "A Poison Tree. he states that "In the morning glad I see. instead of just dealing with your anger right away." or "sunned it with smiles. and often has lasting impacts. and has died. It seems like one more example of the children's verses and nursery rhymes that had become popular and were being published in the later part of the eighteenth century. It became more and more of a burden. no matter what he did." a reader may be deceived by the apparent simplicity of the poem. That is one interpretation. self-esteem. and how it completely destroyed the other person." which seems to indicate that the foe has partaken of this poisoned apple. whether it be that he "watered it in fears. Blake's moral is that when we are angry. Then. is a symbol for the speaker having released his anger finally. I doubt Blake is referring to actual murder. it grew and grew. marriages. we should. talk about it and get it out there. /My foe outstretched beneath the tree. families. it eventually turns to poison. It's kind-of like bottling up rage and having it explode. as he did in line 2. it ruins friendships. The most famous collection was the one . at the end. Blake uses a poisoned apple as a metaphor for that toxic anger that the reader grew by dwelling on it. If your wrath and anger for someone is nurtured within you for so long. with disastrous and regretful results.

He also begins to speak using metaphor. By using metaphor. The lines are not really moralizing about confessing or concealing anger. He "waterd" his anger with his tears. The speaker is laying a trap for his foe. the speaker says. He told his friend that he was angry. my wrath did end. By extension. "Night & morning with my tears: / And I sunned it with smiles. as he does in the first quatrain. The analogy the reader is led to draw between the first set of two lines. the very act of being friendly strengthens his wrath." Again the verse seems clear and simple. Second Quatrain The second quatrain. in the second." the speaker says. furthermore. / I told my wrath. the speaker tells how he has tended and cultivated his anger. but he speaks of his wrath not as if it were an emotion. the poem considers the nature and consequences of anger. The false smiles he bestows on his foe act like sunshine on the plant of his wrath. and. The language and sentiment are simple and hardly need to be explained even to a young child. strategies intended to deceive someone into trusting." In contrast to this way of handling anger. and the result was that his anger went away. Metaphor allows one thing to suggest or stand for something else. seems less like a child's verse than the first quatrain. "I was angry with my friend." In these lines. "I was angry with my foe: / I told it not." Blake begins. The whole thing is presented in a neat package tied up and resolved by the rhyme of "friend" and "end. He is not suggesting a moral." Wiles are sly tricks. The situations are different. They are referring to the way people classify other people as friends and foes and to the different ways people treat friends and foes. do not suppress it. and the worse are his intentions. the speaker represents the duplicity of his behavior in his language. the speaker is angry at his friend. This difference immediately makes the simple poem less simple. and so. or rhyming couplet. . at his foe. using another metaphor. tempting him to desire something that seems alluring but is harmful. seem to reinforce the wisdom of the first two: Say what you feel. The clarity of innocence is gone." Such verses were intended to teach children moral lessons through easy-to-remember rhymes and catchy rhythms. He is revealing the pleasure he takes in his own slyness. He makes his behavior appear more attractive than it is. too. the lesson. When people do not say how they feel. The "it" of the first line of the second quatrain refers to the speaker's wrath. but he is examining a process. by talking about anger as if it were a plant and about hypocrisy as if it were sunshine. the more hostile he really is. my wrath did grow. or things will get worse. The speaker's behavior does not look like what it is. In the first couplet. he "sunned it with smiles / And with soft deceitful wiles. Someone is speaking of his direct experience: He was angry at his friend. composed of two more rhyming couplets. the bad feeling becomes worse.attributed to "Mother Goose. He is not what he seems. The friendlier the speaker seems. but as if it were a small plant. which it is. "And I waterd it in fears. / And with soft deceitful wiles. and the second couplet is not exact. The latter two lines of the quatrain. As he pretends to be friendly to his foe. how he has made it grow. exploring how it grows and what it grows into.

" The wrath has become an actual tree. the reader should recognize evil within himself before it becomes destructive and he is "glad" to see his enemy dead.. The "it" must refer to his wrath. in the second quatrain seems to become the thing itself. however. What are the moral lessons in A Poison Tree by William Blake? William Blake intends. when Eve first eats from the apple and then deceives Adam." In the second line of the third quatrain. Anger does not bear apples. "And it grew both day and night. The reader should ensure open communication and should not nurture hatred or "wrath” or it will "grow. "it" bears "an apple bright.Third Quatrain What is a figure of speech." the speaker says. the narrator's "foe" becomes less afraid of the narrator. Furthermore." . The deceit becomes so intense that it bears "an apple bright. Apple trees do. an actual thing. the wicked queen deceives Snow White.. in A Poison Tree. in the third. to warn his readers that if they ignore his message regarding the "deceitful wiles" that cause hatred to intensify due to a lack of communication. The moral lessons in A Poison Tree include the need to be cautious of the motives of others and the ability of others to manipulate the innocent. an actual tree." In the poem. even though he lured him to his death. also an innocent young girl literally poisoned. which he has been cultivating with "smiles. as it appears in The Creation. they too can end up "outstretched beneath the tree” or be a person destroyed by his own "wrath. a metaphor. / And … soft deceitful wiles." Most readers would be familiar with any story of the core or centre of an apple being bad.the figurative "poison" being how they lost their innocence and Eve effectively poisoned Adam's mind and also in Snow White. The fruit of the speaker's. A feeling has been given so much weight that it has become a presence. and does not realize the depth of his hatred as the narrator "sunned it with smiles" misleading the enemy.

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