On first contact with "A Poison Tree," a reader may be deceived by the apparent simplicity of the poem. It seems like one more example of the children's verses and nursery rhymes that had become popular and were being published in the later part of the eighteenth century. The most famous collection was the one attributed to "Mother Goose." Such verses were intended to teach children moral lessons through easy-to-remember rhymes and catchy rhythms.
"I was angry with my friend; / I told my wrath, my wrath did end," Blake begins. The language and sentiment are simple and hardly need to be explained even to a young child. Someone is speaking of his direct experience: He was angry at his friend. He told his friend that he was angry, and the result was that his anger went away. The whole thing is presented in a neat package tied up and resolved by the rhyme of "friend" and "end." In contrast to this way of handling anger, the speaker says, "I was angry with my foe: / I told it not, my wrath did grow." Again the verse seems clear and simple, and so, too, the lesson. When people do not say how they feel, the bad feeling becomes worse. The latter two lines of the quatrain, furthermore, seem to reinforce the wisdom of the first two: Say what you feel; do not suppress it, or things will get worse.
The analogy the reader is led to draw between the first set of two lines, or rhyming couplet, and the second couplet...
(The entire section is 1782 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of A Poison Tree Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!