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On "a Poison Tree" by William Blake

Autor:   •  March 8, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,177 Words (5 Pages)  •  3,323 Views

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The poem "A Poison Tree" was written by William Blake in 1789 and published in his book "Songs of Experience" the same year. It deals with revenge and animositiy, their results, and ways of coping with them.

The poem's structure is very simple, containing four stanzas in the form of riming quatrains. The rime scheme obeyed is AABB - CCDD - EEFF - GGHH. Blake uses exclusively trochaic tetrameter in this poem, which gives the slight impression of a nursery rime. Only in the beginning of lines one, four, and sixteen of the poem, Blake adds anacrusises as slight breaks in the otherwise strict metrical structure. A slightly surreal setting and the intentional usage of simple language in combination with a children's song-like rime scheme for a very serious topic give "A Poison Tree" a nightmare-like depiction.

Except for one extended methaphor (the apple on the tree, sun and water) Blake does not use much imagery in this poem. Generally speaking, it is written in a very narrative style and is easy to understand.

The textual essence of the first stanza is: Anger released can be overcome, but suppressed feelings of anger will grow (cf. l. 2, 4). The semantic split is emphasized even more by the fact that the division line between the parts is drawn between the riming couplets. Furthermore, unlike the other stanzas, there is a full stop in the end of the second line of the first couplet. Both rime pairs resemble eachother gramatically, hence form a parallelism, except for different subjects and a negation. The subjects themselves, "friend" (l. 1) and "foe" (l.3), carry antithetic notions and present a juxtaposition. Also, the last words of lines two and four ("end", "grow") are juxtaposed.

An anaphora is carried out through all four lines of the first stanza: They all start with "I". The repetitive occurance of anaphora throughout the poem is the tribute the author pays for the intended simplicity of language.

In the second quatrain, Blake introduces the image of a plant, again using a parallelism in lines five and seven. Still, Blake leaves the reader untaught about the definite symbol of the speaker's hatred as there is no further illustration of the object given that "it" (lines 5, 7) refers to. This stanza deals with the process of "growing" hatred by watering it with tears and fears (cf. lines 5, 6) and exposing it to sunshine by (supposedly fake) smiles and ploys carried out on the opponent (cf. l. 7, 8). The rain, which the "tears" (l. 6) stand for, and the sun (cf. l. 7) are metaphors for time as well as for good conditions for a plant to grow. The time aspect is also supported by the usage of the phrase "night and morning" (l. 6).

Blake gives the reader the impression of a latent, hence ceaseless, omnipresent and growing feeling of antagonism.


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