A Poison Tree, by William Blake

Such a seemingly simple poem, but one with such a powerful message.  I remember reading it at school, along with all the other poems that make up William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and even then (O levels) it made great sense to me, and influenced my thinking greatly, and continues to do so.

I bought the lovely reproduction volume shown here at the V and A several years ago, and refer to it often.  We also have another (Penguin) volume of Blake’s verse that Malcolm bought many years ago when we were both at university, edited by Jacob Bronowski .

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I was angry with my friend

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe:

I told it not, my wrath did grow.


And I waterd it in fears,

Night and morning with my tears:

And I sunned it with smiles

And with soft deceitful wiles.


And it grew both day and night,

Till it bore an apple bright.

And my foe beheld it shine,

And he knew that it was mine.


And into my garden stole.

When the night had veild the pole:

In the morning glad I see,

My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

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I have seen at close hand far too much of the damage this way of being can wreak in a family (or between friends, or in any community).  It is indeed poisonous.  Though in my own experience, it damages and destroys the person who nurtures the anger every bit as much as it does the person who is the object of the anger.

And if the object of the anger simply refuses to play the game and resists the temptation of the shining apple, the person who most comes to harm is the one who holds and nurtures the anger (by which I don’t mean to advocate that the best way to harm the hater is to leave them to it; simply that the best way to protect yourself is to not be drawn in).

So much for all of us to learn from this short, simple verse.

I know that there are learned theses to be read and written on this, and that here I am just dipping my toe in the water.  But the water is none the less refreshing for that.

William Blake continues to astonish, inspire and delight me.

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About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
This entry was posted in Poetry party, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Poison Tree, by William Blake

  1. He is a great poet, and I’m always fascinated how much wisdom we can find in poetry. Thank you for sharing this.


  2. Sam says:

    I am a William Blake fan too. It’s a powerful verse. As you say, we could learn a lot but some people are not open to learning or into self-awareness, sadly.


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