So the foe is poisoned and dies in "A Poison Tree"? I just don't understand the ending.

Expert Answers

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Well, maybe.  There are actually two ways to interpret this poem.  Depending on the interpretation you choose, the answer is either "yes" or "no."  It all depends on how you define the word "outstretched."  Let's dissect each interpretation in turn.

The interpretation that you suggest here is the simplest one.  It is the one that allows the poem to be read like a nursery rhyme:  a simple poem about nixing anger through communication with a friend and fostering anger through secrecy with a foe.  This reading of the poem suggests that the foe who is "outstretched" beneath the tree is actually dead.  The speaker, then, isn't very commendable, is he?  He revels in the death of an enemy.

However, if you want to take the word "outstretched" at its literal meaning, then the foe isn't dead at all.  In this case, it is only the friendship that is poisoned.  It is the foe that realizes that his friend is really an enemy.  The issues and the poisons of anger, hypocrisy, and secrecy still remain, ... as they often do in real life.  Our enemies live on.

Considering the base nature of the speaker as well as the obvious connection to the biblical fall of man, I'll give you one guess as to whether this poem is found within Blake's Songs of Innocence or Songs of Experience.  (Ha!)

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