A Poison Tree by William Blake

Illustration from Songs of Innocence & Experience

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,
Til 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.

My third poetry post here. This is the first really famous one I’ve posted, and I’ve read it before. I’ve never read all of Songs of Innocence & Experience, but it’s on the list.

First a quick note about the meter: lines 2, 4, 14, & 16 are iambic, while the rest of the poem is trochaic, with the initial syllable stressed in the line, “I was angry with my friend.”

According to the Wikipedia article on the poem, Blake originally gave this poem the title “Christian Forebearance.” This suggests that forbearance, when approached the wrong way, becomes destructive. The speaker in the poem has turned his anger and fear inward, hiding his true feelings, but repressing his feelings only makes them more destructive. However, the poem stops short of explicitly moralizing about this, as it ends with the speaker’s vindictive pleasure at seeing his enemy dead. In order to see something wrong here, the reader has to take a different perspective than the narrator.

Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

2 thoughts on “A Poison Tree by William Blake

  1. Great thoughts, Beth! I noticed the symbols of the apple and the garden which reminds me of the story of the Garden of Eden. His friend at the beginning of the poem is his foe at the end of it. Very powerful!

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  2. I agree, the apple tree is probably referring to the one in the garden of Eden. I've just come across another reference to that story right at the beginning of Byron's Manfred, which I've just started. I'm looking forward to reviewing it!

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