What is disturbing and, in fact, more tragic than death is that the speaker finds happiness upon discovering about the death.
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.
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 veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
Just like many of Blake’s other poems, A Poison Tree has a childlike tone.
In the first stanza, the speaker describes two actions: the dying of the speaker’s wrath because he admitted his negative feelings for his friend and the growing of this wrath because the speaker kept to himself what he felt for his enemy.
In the succeeding stanzas, wrath is personified and is symbolized by a tree that bears a fruit after the speaker has nurtured it with his fears, tears, smiles and wiles.
The poem concludes with the enemy’s tragic death. But what is disturbing and, in fact, more tragic is that the speaker finds happiness upon discovering about the death. Obviously, the poem is about revenge. The speaker plots against his enemy and he succeeds in all his plans. It may be a real death or a figurative death but the speaker succeeds anyway.
On the surface, the poem may look simple and amateurish because of the writer’s effort of putting full end-rhymes in all the four stanzas (friend, end; foe, grow; fears, tears; smiles, wiles; and so on). To me, the poem sounds forced and artificial. But in a deeper analysis, the poem is actually brilliant.
For example, in the fourth stanza the writer used the word “pole” to stand for the tree which symbolizes wrath. Why did he use “pole” (and stole) when he could have used “tree” (and a similar sounding word)?
The concept of poles or about opposing ideas is prevalent in the poem: friend vs. foe, growth vs. death, smiles vs. tears, water vs. sun, and day vs. night. It is interesting to note that the two main opposing words are alliterated (Friend and Foe) and therefore highlights the theme.
The end is very dramatic because of these two images: (1) the death is discovered in the morning, the symbol of hope and of new life and (2) the tree which usually symbolizes life ends the enemy’s life.
Rhodora also writes at WARAYBLOGGER.com
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