On first contact with "A Poison Tree," a reader may be apostatized by the ostensible simplicity of the poem. It seems like one more example of the children's verses and nursery rhymes that had propagate and were being published in the later component of the eighteenth century. The most famous accumulation was the one attributed to "Mother Goose." Such verses were intended to teach children moral lessons through facile-to-remember rhymes and catchy rhythms.
"I was angry with my friend; / I told my wrath, my wrath did culminate," Blake commences. The language and sentiment are simple and hardly need to be explicated 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 peregrinated 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 verbally expresses, "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 verbally express how they feel, the bad feeling becomes worse. The latter two lines of the quatrain, furthermore, seem to reinforce the sagaciousness of the first two: Verbally express 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 is not exact. The situations are different. In the first couplet, the speaker is angry at his friend; in the second, at his foe. This difference immediately makes the simple poem less simple. The lines are not genuinely moralizing about confessing or concealing anger. They are referring to the way people classify other people as friends and foes and to the different ways people treat friends and foes. By extension, the poem considers the nature and consequences of anger,...
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