The poem “A Poison Tree” is based upon the poet’s personal experience through which he throws light on human situations. He emphasizes that we should not nourish anger and hatred in our hearts. Because Hatred grows into enmity, enmity breeds fear, and fear gives rise to revenge. In trustworthy condition, we are frank with our friends and settle differences through mutual understanding. But in non-trusting conditions, we are otherwise and breed hatred, doubts, fear, and anger. A man may get annoyed with his friends and others on different occasions. His attitude with his friends and foes is quite different.
He expresses his anger to his friends who possibly seeks his forgiveness and his indignation is no more. He does not express his anger to his enemy. It takes abode in his heart. The feelings of anger are stooped in the heart. They are not ventilated. Resultantly, they become poison at heart. Due to distrust and fear, he does not speak frankly of his anger and anguish. Such malice and ill-feelings go on mounting due to one or the other reason.
The poet was angry with his friend. He told about his anger to his friend. His anger went away. He was angry with his enemy but he did not express his anger to him. He assumed him a dangerous person, adopting underhand measures to harm him. The poet adopted hypocritical behavior by treacherous smiles. He projected civilized manners but inwardly his grudge and malice against the enemy got intense. He secretly looked for an occasion to take revenge from his enemy.
The hypocritical device did an effective work for the poet. It produced a poisonous tree, which bore an apple. The apple was forceful deception as outwardly attractive but inwardly poisonous. It was the result of the poet’s concealed and cunning activity. The poet tells that the fruit lured the enemy. HE thought by stealing an apple, he would be harming the poet. One night, he picked the apple stealthily, ate it, and died on the spot due to its fast working poison. The next morning the poet was overjoyed to see his enemy dead there and then. The enemy fell victim to the poet’s cunning device. What could not be got through straight way was achieved through crooked way. (A Poison Tree)
The poem has a number of contrasts, love and hate, friends and foe, trust and distrust, fear and tear, and so on. The poet describes the gradual development of hatred. Friends may forgive but enemies never. The title of the poem is appropriate and symbolizes anger and hatred. Watering it with tears, smiles, cunning shows intensity of anger and hate.
Explanation with Reference
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.
tIn the given lines, the poet talks about the basic human passion. Particularly, the poet says that love begets love, and hatred breeds hatred. If we discuss the cause of our anger with others, we get reconciled. If we do not do so, we become hatred against each other. The poet also gets angry with his friend. He tells him the cause of his anger. The friend seeks his forgiveness and his anger is no more. Similarly, he gets angry with his enemy and does not discuss it with him. Reluctantly, the ill-feelings are stopped in his heart; they grow to hatred and convert into a poisonous tree.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles
In the given lines, the poet talks about his hatred of his enemy. In a metaphorical manner, the poet compares his anger with a growing plant. A plant needs favorable weather conditions to grow. The poet also gives the plant of hatred a feasible atmosphere. He gives heat to the plant with his hypocritical smiles and deceptive wiles. Disliking gives birth to anger, anger gives birth to hate and hate makes the person revengeful. Revengefulness breeds fear. Then, Fear brings the person to the man-snake situation. Snake bites lest man kills him and man kills snake lest it bites him. The poet follows teh same scheme against his enemy.
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
In the given lines of the poem “A Poem Tree”, the poet William Blake tells about the rapid growth of the poisonous tree. The poet cared for the tree day in and day out. Resultantly, it bore a charming apple. The apple was bright, attractive, and tantalizing outwardly but rotten and poisonous inwardly. The apple also reminds us of the old myth, which deceived both Adam and Eve under the name of the Tree of Wisdom. The poet’s enemy beheld that fruit was his property. He could not resist temptation and ate the fruit. He was ensnared by its external attraction. Thus the poet succeeds in making his enemy to become a thief.
And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe out stretch’d beneath the tree
The given lines are the climax of the poem. These show the desired results of the poet. Poet’s deep-rooted hatred gives birth to a poisonous tree. IT bore a charming deceptive apple. His enemy felt jealous to see such an apple. In the darkness of night, he stole to harm the poet. But the tables were turned against him. He ate the fruit and dropped dead, under the tree. The following morning, the poet’s joy had no bounds. He was sure that his enemy would never come to good terms with him. So he got rid of him through deceptive tricks. Externally, the poet posed him to be his benevolent but internally he was malevolent. It shows a sharp contrast between appearance and reality. (A Poison Tree)
Appropriateness of Title “A Poison Tree”
“A Poison Tree” is an appropriate title for the poem. The poet compares his anger with a plant that grows in a suitable atmosphere of distrust. The plant needs water and air. Both the things are given to the plant in enough quantity. Hatred and anger when kept in heart, grow and become a full-fledged tree like other trees, it bears fruit. This fruit is poisonous because its seed was full of the poison of malevolence. His enemy also beholds that fruit belongs to the poet. But he does not understand the inward and outward signs of the fruit. This good-looking apple is chocked with jealously, the enemy goes to the garden to steal the apple. He comes into the garden, steals an apple, eats it, and dies. The apple is so poisonous that it takes away his life.
Coleridge says, “Friendship is a sheltering tree.” So we cannot help remembering the fruits of friendship. But in the poem, it is not the tree of friendship. It cannot give us shelter and protection. So, It is the tree of hatred and anger. Thus, It can give forth poisonous fruit.