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Historical Context in A Poison Tree

Historical Context Examples in A Poison Tree:

A Poison Tree

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"And I watered it in fears Night & morning with my tears,..."   (A Poison Tree)

Through his art and poetry, William Blake constructed his own mythological system, drawing on Christian, Greek, and Norse traditions. One of Blake’s central gods is “Urizen,” a character who mirrors the biblical Lucifer, or Satan. Like Lucifer, Urizen is a fallen god who displays a contempt for humanity and a dedication to pure reason (“Urizen” is a verbal play on “Your Reason”). One of the poem’s themes is the separation between the speaker and “my wrath,” a chasm which hints of Urizen’s separation from the realm of emotion.

"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.”

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