A Poison Tree

July 19, 2018 General Studies

“A Poison Tree” by William Blake, is a poem of 4 stanzas with a rhyme scheme of aabbccddeeffgghh, and in which the poet examines the negative effect of unresolved wrath/anger. Blake cleverly presents this idea by the way of an extended metaphor in order to make the point that the best way to deal with inner emotions/feelings is confronting or talking about them. Not only does Blake use an extended metaphor, but allusion, tone, and title also contribute to his message. An extended metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two essentially unlike things at some length and in several ways.

In “Poison Tree”, the poet compares a tree to the speaker’s anger. Throughout the poem, the tree grows which resembles the speaker’s anger growing. In lines 3-4, his anger just begins to grow, “I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.” Then in lines 5-6, the speaker waters the tree which helps its growing, the speaker’s anger also grows because he hides it with smiles, “And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles.”

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As the speaker’s anger grows to a maximum point, the tree bears an apple, “And it grew both day and night Till it bore an apple bright,” in lines 9-10. By the last stanza, the speaker tricks the foe and kills him due to his anger, which has now fully grown into a tree with a “poisonous” apple, “And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole: In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree.” Poets use allusions to make an indirect reference to another literary work or to a famous person, place, or event. To me, “The Cask of Amontillado” was an allusion to “A Poison Tree”.

I thought this because the apple in “A Poison Tree” was used to trick the foe into going into the garden and getting killed just like Amontillado in “The Cask of Amontillado” was used to trick the foe into going into the catacombs and also getting killed. Out of anger and hatred, both speakers used trickery in order to kill their foes. Blake alludes the poem to “The Cask of Amontillado” for the purpose of proving how the cause of keeping emotions such as anger inside can result in trickery and/or death. Tone is the attitude a writer takes toward a subject. In my opinion, the tone of “A Poison Tree” is bitter. The writer obviously has an emotional connection or experience with this particular subject.

The poem is not a positive one, but more on the negative side. It is meant to be relatable, because all of us have or at some point will hide our feelings and it will not always be a good thing. The writer makes the speaker experience pain due to the anger the speaker is experiencing. If this is the case, the writer is most likely experiencing pain also. The rhyme scheme makes the poem more lucid. The word choice is precisely chosen to create a more bitter tone, an example would be these chosen phrases/words: foe, wrath, deceitful wiles, veiled the pole.

Finally, a text’s title may provide an important key to understanding the theme or message of the poem. Blake’s poem title is helpful to consider because it gives off negativity which suggests the poem will be negative. By using an extended metaphor, allusion, and tone, Blake provides a common scenario that’s well-known to us. But, he doesn’t just give us a story which we can relate to, instead he gives us some advice. The best way to deal with emotions is to simply confront or talk about them instead of keeping them bottled up inside.


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