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Allusion in A Poison Tree

Allusion Examples in A Poison Tree:

A Poison Tree

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"And into my garden stole..."   (A Poison Tree)

The setting of the garden alludes to the Garden of Eden, further emphasizing the parallel between the story of the poem and the episode of original sin in the book of Genesis. The word “stole” has two registers. Literally, the foe sneaks into the garden while “stole” also connotes an act of theft, which evokes Eve’s theft of the fruit of knowledge. Once again, all responsibility is placed on the foe, even though it is the foe who ultimately dies from the speaker’s wrath.

"And he knew that it was mine,..."   (A Poison Tree)

Blake’s use of the verb “knew” is key. The foe understands the nature of the apple, placing all subsequent responsibility on the foe, rather than the speaker. The foe’s knowledge parallels that of Adam and Eve, who understand their sin before eating the apple in Eden.

"Till it bore an apple bright,..."   (A Poison Tree)

The apple serves two primarily symbolic functions. The apple is the result of the speaker’s long-harbored, unexpressed wrath. The image offers an appropriate touch of redness, underscoring the tone of rage. The apple also serves as an allusion to the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil in the book of Genesis. Satan offers Adam and Eve the fruit; their to decision to eat it marks the “original sin.” Thus the apple is the hinge between innocence and experience, to use Blake’s terminology.

"my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow...."   (A Poison Tree)

According to Christian cosmology, the angel Lucifer rebelled against God and was cast down from heaven. Lucifer thus became Satan, the deceiver of humans. In Blake’s poem, the speaker’s initial wrath towards “my friend” alludes to Lucifer’s rebellion against God. The next object of wrath, “my foe,” is Satan’s eternal prey, humanity itself. The words “friend” and “foe” establish a hierarchy. Satan is subservient to God—a “friend”—but has power over humanity—his “foe.”

"I was angry..."   (A Poison Tree)

With repeated uses of “I,” Blake places the speaker at the poem’s center. Scholars have identified the speaker as a representation of Satan. Indeed, the central theme of “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” is humanity’s fall from grace to sin in the Garden of Eden, as told in the biblical book of Genesis. The poem’s story depicts this very fall, telling it from the perspective of Satan, a fallen figure in his own right.

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