“A Poison Tree”

William Blake’s Original Art for “A Poison Tree”

William Blake’s Original Art for “A Poison Tree”

The following poem comes from William Blake’s Songs of Experience. In it, we see how repressed anger bears its own poison fruit, in this case, the death of an enemy.

A Poison Tree

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.

I like Blake’s take on suppressed anger in this poem. The implication is that if the narrator had not “told his wrath” with his friend, it would have been his friend that suffered the dire consequences. Instead, he nurses his anger until it grows, has its dire effect on his foe, and leaves him gladdened at the results.