Study Guide

A Poison Tree Anger

By William Blake

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I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end. (1-2)

The rhyme between "friend" and "end" suggests that, perhaps, it is much easier for anger to "end" when it comes to friends, rather than enemies. Perhaps friendship is necessary before anger can finally subside.

I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow. (3-4)

If the rhymes in the first two lines emphasize the connection between the end of wrath and friendship, lines 3-4 emphasize just the opposite. The word "foe" rhymes with "grow," which suggests that having enemies, or even perceiving someone as your foe, is the source from which destructive anger springs.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles (5-8).

The repetition of "and" three times in this stanza suggests how things like anger and "fears," "tears," and "soft deceitful wiles" are connected. The list-like effect of the word "and" implies that all these things are on equal footing with one another, connected in a chain of negativity.

And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine, (11-12)

Mmm! That's good anger-apple! The speaker's anger is simultaneously attractive to his foe, and it's also clearly identifiable as to whose apple it is. This makes us think that anger can be attractive to others in the sense that it attracts the anger of others (You're mad at me? Well, then I'm mad at you!). Our anger, too, is not an anonymous creation. It's recognizable to others, in part because it's so deeply seated in our personalities. Scary.

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