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Cheyanna Young

Engl. 270
Poetry Analysis
1/23/2013
A Poison Tree
The poem A Poison Tree is an observation on human nature as well as a commentary of the
biblical account of the fall of man in Genesis. The first stanza juxtaposes the positivity and
release of venting with the festering of keeping issues bottled up inside. I told my wrath, my
wrath did end, illustrates the peace and satisfaction gleaned from venting ones issues while I
told it not, my wrath did grow, chronicles a longer more destructive way of dealing with anger.
Eventually, after having allowed his anger to fester, the speakers wrath concentrates into an
apple, which has parallels within the Bibles account of the fall of man in Eden. The apple in the
poem parallels the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, which led to mans downfall. The
apple was bright and it shone, illustrating the theme that evil is beautiful and seductive.
Similar to Genesis, the foe in the poem beheld [the apple] shine and could not resist its
temptation, stealing into the garden and ultimately dying. Also similar to the account in Genesis,
the foe knew that it was [the speakers] and forbidden to him much as the fruit in Genesis
was forbidden to Adam and Eve. This aspect of the poem exemplifies that what is forbidden is
tempting, playing back into the theme that temptation is seductive and ultimately tempting.
Juxtaposing A Poison Tree with Blakes poem To Tirzah, irony is demonstrated through the
lines But Mercy changed Death into Sleep; The Sexes rose to work & weep. In the Bible, God
did not kill Adam and Eve as the speaker in A Poison Tree killed his foe, but rather sentenced
Adam to painful toil and Eve to pain and anguish. The Mercy referred to in To Tirzah
alludes to Gods mercy in the Garden through letting Adam and Eve live, however subliminal
commentary within these poems begs the question of whether God really was being merciful or
not in his judgment? The death of the foe in A Poison Tree was presumably quick and painless,
so compared to the dread and inevitability of death presented in To Tirzah where people
have been betrayed to Mortal life, the speaker in A Poison Tree was more merciful. Further
biblical parallels exist within A Poison Tree where the foe could also be seen as representative
of Satan, stealing into Gods garden to take what was Gods: Adam and Eve. So immortal beings
could also be seen as susceptible to temptation in so far a Satan was tempted by the paradise
of Eden to steal Adam and Eve away from God. Following this train of thought, this poem also
has commentary on the possessive, vengeful nature of God, attributing God as the speaker,
saying Satan knew that it [Eden, Adam and Eve] was mine so I was glad to see my foe [Satan]
outstretched beneath the tree.