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Review of William Blake’s Poem ‘A Poison Tree’

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‘A Poison Tree’, written by William Blake and published in 1794, uses rhyming couplet form, symbolism and metaphors, and tone to convey message. The message of the poem is that humans ‘water’ their anger and let it grow, whereas the poem tries to teach us that this is unideal.

The poem ‘The Poison Tree’ is a rhyming couplet. This is used as rhyming couplet is a very basic style following AABB. This contrasts the complex human emotions that are portrayed in the poem. Also, the rhyming style has a similar theme to that of a nursery rhyme. The purpose of a nursery rhyme is to teach the listener a message. Therefore, the rhyming couplet style means that the poem is teaching the reader the message that anger cannot be bottled up as eventually it will reach a point of no return, which in the poem was the death of the “foe”. ‘The Poison Tree’ uses a rhyming couplet structure to draw comparison to complex human emotions and create a nursery rhyme style to teach a message.

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This poem uses symbolism as it refers to Adam and Eve. The inclusion of a biblical reference further extrapolates the dichotomy of good vs evil. It also uses a metaphor when anger is compared to growing and feeding a tree. Firstly, symbolism is used in the poem to relate it to the Garden of Eden, as in the Bible the apple Eve ate was symbolism for the perfection of the world, ruined by sin. Christianity was a very big part of life in the time that this was written, also shown in many others of Blake’s poems. Also, the poem uses a metaphor to represent anger as a tree that we feed and grow if we do not release it. This is shown in the phrase, “And it grew both day and night. Till it bore an apple bright”. The poet of ‘The Poison Tree’ wisely uses symbolism and metaphors to create the idea that anger is like a tree, which you grow and feed, as well as referring to the Garden of Eden and the apple.

Blake’s poem has strong tone conveyed throughout the poem. The tone in the poem is smug, conceited and angry. An example of this is the combination of the phrases “I was angry with my foe” and “In the morning glad I see; my foe outstretched beneath the tree”. This shows the build up of anger, from being angry, to being glad to see them dead. The speaker speaks smugly of the deceased foe, with no regret heard in his tone. Tone is also shown in the stanza saying, “And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles”. The term “wiles” shows the devious mannerisms and has manipulative tones. This is cleverly used in a way that ties into the idea of watering a plant. The poem uses tone meaningfully to illustrate the message of the poem and include the reader into the thoughts of the poem, so it is better understood.

The poem strongly reiterates the idea of anger taking the form of a tree, and it growing as we water it. It successfully creates meaning and message through use of rhyming couplet form, symbolism, metaphor and tone. William Blake’s poem ‘A Poison Tree’, strongly conveys meaning and tone, as well as teaching the reader a message.

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Review of William Blake’s Poem ‘A Poison Tree’. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
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