A Poison Tree by William Blake – Summary Analysis Questions

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A Poison Tree by William Blake is a poem with a message. The poem is famous for the poet’s use of symbolism coupled with mysticism. William Blake, in A Poison Tree, condemns the emotions of hatred and dislike. He criticizes those who harbour malice for others. It is an allegory that highlights man’s deceptiveness and hypocrisy. Blake believes that these feelings bring about damage and decline to humanity. A Poison Tree by William Blake also contains allusion. This poem is William Blake’s masterpiece. Many universities across the globe include A Poison Tree in their English literature syllabi. This article, A Poison Tree by William Blake – Summary Analysis Questions, looks into the artistic and thematic features of the poem. It will be of great benefit to the students to understand William Blake’s approach in A Poison Tree. The instructors of English literature will also find this article helpful.

The Poet

William Blake, born on November 28, 1757, was a famous English poet. He did not enjoy so much recognition in his life as he does today. Blake, one of the most influential literary figures in English literature, was a visionary poet. His influence on the poets of the Romantic era is quite palpable. The ideals and ambitions of the French Revolution and the American War of Independence greatly influenced William Blake. He believed in the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. William Blake’s fame largely rests on his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789). In his poems, he questions social values and their practicability. He shows how human beings violate the standards of morality. Blake also comments on appearance and reality. William Blake was against hypocrisy and his poems pose a sharp comment on this flaw of human character. He died on August 12, 1827.

Text of the Poem A Poison Tree by William Blake

A Poison Tree by William Blake – Summary Analysis Questions

Summary of the Poem A Poison Tree by William Wordsworth


A Poison Tree by William Blake is a symbolic and mystic poem. In this poem, the poet shows how mistrust, grudge, and malice lead to the destruction of humanity. He tells us how these evil emotions cast a negative influence on human values and morality.

Poet’s Anger

In A Poison Tree, Blake tells us that he got angry with his friend. He had faith in his friend. This faith encouraged him to share his feelings of anger with his friend. It provided them with a chance to resolve their dispute. As a result of this, Blake’s wrath on his friend dissolved.

On the contrary, when Blake got angry with his enemy, he did not share his feelings with him. It exhibits a lack of trust between them. This unshared emotion continued to grow in his heart. It proved a seed of hatred in the poet’s heart.

Nourishment of the Seed of Hatred

The poet had fears and doubts about the intentions of his enemy. Therefore, he nourished this seed of hatred like a gardener would nourish the seed of a plant. Blake watered this seed with his tears of dislike and grudge. He gave it the warmth of his insincere smiles and dishonest guiles.

The Growth of the Poison Tree

As a consequence of careful nourishment, the seed grew into a poison tree. This tree bore a bright apple that shone as if it were made of gold. However, the beauty of this apple was deceptive as it was poisonous.

The Conduct of the Enemy and Its Result

The enemy of the poet harboured the same feelings of hatred of malice against the poet. He felt jealous of the poet for his fascinating tree and its attractive fruit. Therefore, he decided to steal it. However, he was unaware of the fact that it was a poison tree and its fruit contained deadly qualities. He stole into the poet’s garden in the darkness of the night, picked the bright apple, and ate it. The toxic effect of the apple killed the enemy there and then.

Poet’s Reaction to the Death of His Enemy

In the morning, the poet found the body of his enemy lying under the poison tree. He felt jubilant at the success of his scheme and the death of his enemy. It is reflective of the moral degradation of the poet who rejoiced in the death of a human being.


A Poison Tree by William Blake contains a deep message. Blake condemns the people who fail to resolve their disputes. The poet shows how a lack of trust creates evil emotions and brings about the destruction of humanity and human values. He stresses the need for the development of reliable relations among human beings.

Important Questions

Q1: What is the message of the poem A Poison Tree by William Blake?

Q2: Which literary devices does Blake use in his poem A Poison Tree?


A Poison Tree by William Blake is a masterpiece of symbolism and mysticism. The poem is a straightforward protest against hypocrisy and deceit. It unfolds the hazardous effects of such evil emotions. The poet lays stress on the development of confident relations among human beings. The poison tree and the golden fruit are symbols of man’s hypocritical and deceitful nature.

Mysticism in A Poison Tree

Mysticism is a kind of rapture or change in the state of mind at the attainment of spirituality or revelation of some hidden truth. In the context of A Poison Tree by William Blake, mysticism lies in the message of the poem. On the surface, it describes a case of enmity which causes the death of one of the enemies. But under the cover of the devilish delight of the poet is a message of humanitarian concern. Blake highlights the bleak consequences of evil emotions.

Symbolism in A Poison Tree

A Poison Tree by William Blake is a highly symbolic poem. The poet used ‘the tree’ and ‘apple bright’ as symbols. The poison tree stands for evergrowing hatred and grievance. The poet’s lack of trust and inability to negotiate with his opponent sowed the seed of this tree. The fruit of this tree is bound to be poisonous and so is the ‘apple bright’. This apple is the symbol of the deadly outcome of hatred, malice, and bitterness.

The Allusion in A Poison Tree

A Poison Tree contains an allusion to the biblical reference to the fruit of the forbidden tree in Heaven. It is noticeable that Satan’s grudge against Adam and Eve resulted in man’s fall from Heaven. Blake seems to suggest that man should have learned a lesson from it. He should have avoided Satanic emotions of hatred and malice. But having descended on the Earth, the progeny of Adam adopted the same Satanic emotions. Blake believes that it is the cause of man’s moral degradation.

First Person Narrative

In A Poison Tree, William Blake assumes the persona of a meanspirited man. He is filled with the desire for revenge. However, it is notable that the ‘I’ used by the poet seems subjective with an objective connotation. It is only an example of all the people who compromise values for evil ambitions.

The Message of the Poem/Conclusion

The poem conveys a message that human beings should learn to live peacefully. It is possible only when they will be able to overcome such ambitions as are harmful to humanity. There is a dire need to practice civilized manners instead of only professing them.

Click here for a unique article on the poem Departure and Arrival by T S Eliot.

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