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Introduction to A Poison Tree
The poem A Poison Tree by William Blake is about the ill and corrupted effects of anger. The poet tells us how that once he was angry with his friend and told him about it. In this way, the anger vanished away.
However, on the other hand, he was angry over his enemy too but because he never told him about it, the anger kept growing in his mind against him (enemy). He forced himself to keep it hidden from his enemy and would use to make fake smiles in front of him.
The anger is symbolised by a poison tree bearing a fruit which poet’s enemy happens to steal and hence dies. I will also try to explain the symbolic and deep meaning of this poem.
I forgot! The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB and it is divided into 4 stanzas having 4 lines each.
The poet says that he was angry with his friend (over some issue) and he told him about it. In this way all the anger and hate that was occupying his mind against his friend vanished away.
Now, he says that he once got angry with his enemy and couldn’t tell him about it. The anger not only remained in poet’s mind but also did grow. In the first stanza, we find how easy is for a person to reconcile with his friend although he may be angry with the latter.
However on the other hand, it is very easy to get angry over one’s enemy but quite difficult to let it go because we cannot talk to him about it. Hence the anger and hate against the enemy keeps growing in our mind.
The poet says that he watered it every day and night in fears (of disclosing his anger before his enemy) and tears (that came out because of hate). The lines mean that the poet failed to give up his anger.
It kept growing day and night in his mind because he feared from telling about it and also kept memorising the ill-activity which poet’s enemy might have done.
In the third line, the poet says that he sunned his anger with smiles and soft deceitful wiles. It must be noted that the poet is symbolising his anger as a tree which is growing in his mind.
Thus as a tree grows well in the sunshine, the poet’s fake smiles also led the tree of anger to grow. The deceitful tricks and plots (used by the poet to hide his anger) were like icing on the cake. All of these things made the tree of poison grow up in his mind. Every day it would get stronger, more poisonous and more difficult to cut.
The poet says that the poisonous tree (of hate) kept growing day and night until a day when it bore an apple bright. The poet gets deep from here. “Bright Apple” is something which attracts one’s eyes and forces him to eat it.
However, this bright apple is grown by the harmful nutrients like deceit, hate and tricks. Thus the bright apple is not good but a symbol of something bad and quite harmful. We may compare this bright apple with the apple of the forbidden tree as believed in Christian and Islamic Theology.
Adam and Eve were attracted to the apple of the forbidden tree but it was rather a fruit that brought disaster in their lives and they were later expelled from the Heaven.
Now let us keep comparing poet’s enemy with Adam and Eve’s enemy (Lucifer). Like Adam and Eve the enemy of poet was attracted to the bright apple of the poet (the bright apple may be a honey-trap or something poisonous and so on).
Like Satan gave offered the apple of forbidden tree to Adam and Eve, the enemy of poet also took it because he knew that it was from the poet and that poet was not angry with him (because poet kept fake smile on his face and used tricks and plots to hide his anger).
Now, like Adam and Eve, the poet’s enemy stole the bright apple (i.e. was trapped in the plot) from the garden (i.e. mind) in the dead of night. And ate it like Adam and Eve did.
Now in the morning, the poet is glad to see his enemy lying dead beneath the poisonous tree like Satan was pleased to see Adam and Eve being expelled from Heaven.
The poet, I think, is trying to say that anger makes one Satan and in pursuit of taking revenge, one forgets that the other person is human too.