Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Poison Tree by William Blake

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 watered 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 veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

On  the Poet: William Blake (1757 - 1827) is one poet whom I've always found intriguing and refreshingly original. He was a man of many gifts whose artistry expressed itself through his poetry and painting. Both have a rich underlay of mysticism, which makes him harder to construe for some, and all the more compelling for others. Blake was not much given to Church orthodoxy, but was deeply devout, so much so that he welcomed his own Death singing hymns and verses, moving one of his house lodgers to say, "I have been at the death, not of a man, but of a blessed angel."

On this poem: The reason I love this poet is for his labyrinthine imagination, and his weird and wonderful style of expression. Take this poem, for example. In the first stanza, he speaks of two variations of conflict, one with a friend and the other with a enemy. He hashes out the matter with the friend, conflict over. He buries his anger at his enemy, and that is the seed of 'the poison tree'. His secret grudge nurtured with hypocrisy and simmering ill-will bears a fruit that tempts the equally vindictive foe into stealing it, not knowing that it spells his own doom.

On a personal note: I don't think I've come across any other denunciation of malice that is as powerful as it is imaginative. I do think think he missed out one thing though. No doubt, hatred and anger are powerful poisons to brew in the well-springs of our heart. It can kill the object of our enmity, provided it doesn't kill us first.

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