Literary Devices In A Poison Tree

The poem “A Poison Tree” was composed by William Blake in the year 1794. The poem personifies the visionary and spiritual approach of the writer towards the poetry.

It shows his intense concern with the moral and sacred state of humanity. The poem probes the destructive power of oppressed anger and the consequences of retaining negative emotions. Blake is known for his simple language having deep meaning. The instant poem is no exception. It contains numerous literary devices to enhance its themes and create a long lasting impact on the readers.

Short Summary of “A Poison Tree”

The poem explains the outcomes of the repressed anger. In the beginning of the poem, the speaker is recounting a time when he was angry with his friend.

He shows his anger and then quickly resolves the conflict. However, he keeps his anger hidden towards his enemy.

With the passage of time, the anger of the speaker grows like a tree having a dead apple. His foe having enticed with the apple, creeps into the garden of the speaker at night and utilize the fruit, which resulted in to his death.

Here, the death of the enemy is not just a physical demise but a symbolic one. It shows the devastating power of the anger and the fatal consequences of deception and betrayal.

The poem ends with the mysterious reaction of the speaker after finding his enemy dead underneath the tree.

Literary Devices in “A Poison Tree”

1. Metaphor

And I water’d it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

Here, the poet employs the words “fears” and “tears” to metaphorically “water” the anger.

He expresses the view that like the water that helps the plant to grow, the continuous and overwhelming fear and grief retain the anger.

Furthermore, the “smiles” and “soft deceitful wiles” indicate the sunlight that helps the tree in growing.

The stanza enumerates that the poet conceals his original feelings behind a guise of friendliness and deceit. This further nourishes his anger.

2. Symbolism

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 veil’d the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree.

The use of “apple bright” in the stanza symbolizes the end of the speaker’s hidden anger.

The bright and captivating appearance of the apple indicates something desirable, however the same is actually dangerous.

The enemy sees the bright apple and considers it as belonging to the speaker. The attractiveness of the apple further symbolizes the deceiving attraction of the uncertain anger, and the same appears tempting to the foe.

Further, the act of the enemy to creep into the garden at night reflects the cheating and betrayal. The night represents privacy and secret intentions.

It emphasizes the veiled nature of the actions taken. The glimpse of the enemy “outstretch’d beneath the tree” in the morning symbolizes the fatal consequences of the nourished anger.

The death of the foe reflects the final and ultimate result of the deceit and suppressed emotions of the speaker.

3. Imagery

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.

It captures the idea of a never-ending process that will neither give up nor retreat in the face of torture and anger (the tree and the speaker’s feelings).

The image implies something that continuous to grow uninterrupted until it becomes the dominant factor of all other feelings such as anger, which insist on the fact that the indignation is never ending and contagious.

In the sentence “bright” implies something that mentally pleasing and eye-candy, by presenting us with a shinny, tempting fruit.

The use of imagery in this line stands for the speaker’s deep hidden rage taking on a physical form of a storm.

The gazing of the shiny apple brings an element of imaginary, which makes the thing more attentive, appealing, and alluring.

Is the shining apple, as in the case of the speaker’s wrath, merely the façade of something that is presentable but vicious in its nature?

This gives us the feeling of being our own and is what stands out. Oppression in the poem as failing to do so shows a deeper realization of and experience in the hatred that has been growing in the speaker.

4. Alliteration

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.

In the stanza, the repeating consonant sound “w” in the words like “was” “with” and “wrath” develops a rhythmic effect.

It draws the attention towards the actions and emotions of the speaker. The use of alliteration also lay stress on the process of conveying anger and resolving it.

Further, the repetition of “t” sound in the words like “told”, “it” and “not” as well as in the words “wrath” and “grow” reflects the repression of the anger.

Moreover, the utilization of alliteration highlights the contrast between the approach of the speaker to anger with a friend versus a foe. It fortifies the theme of the poem i.e. the consequences of unexpressed emotions.

Themes in “A Poison Tree”

The poems contains the following important themes:

I- Anger and Wrath: The primary theme of the poem is the disastrous nature of anger, as it develops with the passage of time and is not expressed.

The poet makes comparison between the two scenarios.

The first one is the confession of anger and thereafter its resolving, whereas the second is the anger that is suppressed and allowed to discharge.

II- Deception and Betrayal: The deception and betrayal is also the themes of the poem.

The speaker’s developing anger leads to the cultivation of a deadly fruit. It symbolizes the deceit and ultimate deception of his rival.

Through this theme, the poet warns about the dangers of hidden anger and urges to resolve the conflicts.

III- Human Nature: The poet explains the darker aspect of the human nature regarding suppressing the negative emotions.

He also highlights that how these emotions can be harmful to the people.

IV- Conflict and Resolution: The final theme of the poem is conflict and resolution.

The poet tells the two ways to deal with it.

Firstly to address openly and secondly to repress it. He further elaborates that the resolution on unresolved conflict leads to the devastating results.

Literary Devices In A Poison Tree
Literary Devices Used In A Poison Tree

Nutshell is that, the poem illustrates the important peculiarities of the hidden anger influence in the human’s nature and developing such wrong feelings like the pessimistic ones.

Through use of various literary techniques, the poet crafts what turns away from a slumbering fury to deadly. The poem indicates a warning to its readers.

Generally, it tells an individual reader how these kind of conflicts should be openly resolved with heart.

Literary devices are not just used for tradition and beauty of the poem but also to enhance psychological and emotional depth.

The poem has managed to break through the chords of time and become part of the literature. It promises the readers both subtle and unusual inferences about humanity and its moral consequences of behavior.

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