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Themes in A Poison Tree

Themes Examples in A Poison Tree:

A Poison Tree

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"And I sunnéd it with smiles And with soft deceitful wiles...."   (A Poison Tree)

The speaker’s decision to cultivate the tree of wrath with water and sun represents a sort of passive aggression. The speaker’s feelings of wrath are an internal state which, left unaddressed and unchecked, become external. It is the wrath’s external form, the tree with its poisonous fruit, that becomes a danger to others, in this case the human “foe.” On one level, the tree of externalized wrath reveals the particular character of the speaker, a Satan-like figure who deceives humanity. On another level, all humans can be guilty of handling their inner emotions in a way that becomes poisonous to the outside world. The character of Satan serves to illustrate this broader theme.

"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.

"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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