A Poison Tree

William Blake

2 min read by Dmitri. Published in Essays, Stories.

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 waterd it in fears,

Night & 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 veild the pole;

In the morning glad I see

My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.

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Blake’s delightfully morbid yet simple poem is dark and provocative. The verse isn’t sensational by any measure; it simply connects with the deep feelings and ideas of righteousness, anger, revenge, ending with a satisfactory, gruesome rendition.

Revenge itself is commonly frowned upon in modern English-speaking culture. Often a catalyst for an action-filled flick or a book, it spins the plot around itself only to be revealed as the wrong, suddenly overpowered by forgiveness or regret. Blake does not draw those conclusions for the reader.

The second line in the first stanza, “I told my wrath, my wrath did end.” aptly introduces the protagonist as a person willing to communicate with- and easily forgive friends. The rest of the poem deliberates with highly descriptive, metaphorical imagery for what is ultimately a plot for a revenge. The tree, the fruit are all figurative devices which tend to stir up memories of personal foes or just annoying people, at least for me, making the gruesome ending feel strangely satisfactory.

Certainly, a verse that can make one learn something new about oneself.