A Poision Tree - William Blake

by Avielle Krug

The Poem

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 and 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.

{EXPLICATION}

-Literal-

The poem describes a person who becomes angry with his friend. Instead of releasing this anger, he bottles it up and lets the hatred fester.


As the days go by, the fears and anger increases and becomes more violent.


Eventually, an apple grows from the powerful hatred.


One night, the friend (now foe) sneaks into the garden and eats the apple. In the morning, the speaker finds his freind dead under the tree.

-Situation-

The poem is a narrative poem, telling a story from the speaker's perspective. The poem centers around powerful emotions of hatred, discust, and revenge. The speaker is clearly telling a personal story, and speaks to the audience without guilt. Blake could have been inspired by emotions he had experienced. The overall tone is innocent and eerie. There is never a sense of regret. This can be seen when Blake writes, "In the morning glad I see..." (line 15) in reference to finding his foe dead. Also, the tone is creepy in that the hatred and anger becomes very intesne, while still sounding innocent.

-Structure-

The whole poem is split into four quatrains. Each quatrain has two couplets. This creates a satisfying and easy to read poem. Blake likely chose to write this way because the words flow smoothly from one verse to the next. Every line has punctuation, and every quatrain ends with an end-stopped line. The poem is narrative, so the story progresses as poem goes on. All sentences are simple and easy to understand.

-Language-

All the language is simple which makes the poem overall sound child-like. The apple in poem is likely a reference to the apple Eve eats in the story of Adam and Eve. Blake uses personification in the poem to describe the speaker's wrath, "I told it not, my wrath did grow. /And I watered it in fears, /Night & morning with my tears". Many metaphors can be in the poem. The growth of a plant is seen as a metaphor for the increasing anger that builds up in the speaker. The poem uses night and day to show how the hatred consumes the speaker's whole life. Blake uses imagery to show how the speaker cares for the tree/poisonous apple. In the end, the tree becomes a symbol of consequence as the enemy lays dead underneath it.

-Musical Devices-

The meter is an iambic tetrameter. An example is on line 16, "My foe outstretched beneath the tree". Trochaic trimeter is also featured in the poem. The iambic therefore is different on certain lines. The poem has a simple rhyme scheme of AABB. Blake uses this simple rhyme scheme to hide a complex story in child-like rhyming. An example of an alliteration in the poem is on lines 7-8, "And I sunned it with smiles, /And with soft deceitful wiles". The repetition of the 's" sound gives the poem a nice flow.

The Doors of Perception, a short story by Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World), takes its title from a phrase in William Blake's 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

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