|Illustration from Songs of Innocence & Experience|
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.