The Human Abstract/ a Poison Tree

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The Human Abstract/ A Poison Tree
By Alex Jamani

To analyze and compare William Blake’s poems “The Human Abstract” and “A Poison Tree”, it is necessary to understand not only his words, but human nature and the mind as a whole. We as people have many tendencies and susceptibilities to everything that happens in our daily lives; toward nature, emotions, friends, and enemies. Our reactions to these tendencies shape our emotions, and enable us to build feelings and expectations of others. In “A Poison Tree”, Blake introduces the cultivation of anger as the principle theme. He maintains that restraining anger, rather than preventing cruelty and aggression, gives extra energy to aggression and strengthens cruelty. In “The Human Abstract”, Blake suggests that intellectualized virtues such as mercy, pity, peace, and love are a breeding ground for cruelty. He depicts cruelty as a conniving and devious person, and by planting a tree, lays a trap. William Blake travels deep into the darkest regions of the human brain to display a side of people not commonly seen. He shows us how our simplistic human emotions can develop into a web of interrelated feelings.

The poem “The Human Abstract” takes a close look at four virtues: Mercy, pity, peace, and love. Blake argues that pity could not exist without poverty, and that mercy would not be necessary if everyone was happy. He goes on to say that the source of peace is within fear, which gives rise only to “selfish loves”. In quatrains 3-6, The poem goes onto describe how cruelty plants and waters a tree in “the Human Brain”, with humility being the roots, mystery being the leaves, and deceit as the fruit. This tree flourishes on fear and weeping, and its branches harbour a raven, the symbol of death. This metaphor suggests that keeping emotions and feelings buried deep down inside will only result in those feelings and emotions becoming stronger, and feeding upon themselves to become more influential. This is where the...
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