Theme of Moral Values in A Poison Tree
William Blake’s poem, A Poison Tree treats the dangerous effect of hidden resentment and the delight of vengeance. The speaker is found to foster here his feeling of bitterness and hatred against his foe. He lacks frankness to speak out his grievance and to find out a settlement of the dispute with his foe. On the other hand, he nurtures his wrath with fear and suspicion, and has recourse to hypocrisy deliberately to wreck vengeance upon his enemy. His mind, soured with malice and suspicion, broods over the way to take revenge. He succeeds in his pretence and allures his enemy to show his spite first and do him wrong secretly. He feels exultant to find him vanquished under his close scheme.
This theme of A Poison Tree is quite serious and based on the evil of envy and enmity. The main argument here is the sinister consequence of suppressed wrath and secretly nurtured hate. Wrath is a natural impulse in man and must better be given vent to. When this is kept suppressed or concealed, it takes a dangerous dimension and poisons the whole mind in no time. Moreover, fear and suspicion have an easy growth in such a state. They serve to aggravate the situation and debase a mind further. All this produces, as it were, a poison tree, with bright but deadly apples.
The matter, however, does not end here. The poisonous apple must lure the foe to taste it. Hypocrisy makes it tempting. The speaker puts on a fair face to hide his false heart. He pretends to have friendship with his foe with a deliberate purpose to deceive and destroy him. His plan well works out. His foe is tempted by the bright apple, steals it out of malice and thereby meets his end. Hypocrisy is deceptive and adds to the venom of hate and succeeds in completing the carefully nurtured wrath
The speaker triumphs over his fallen foe. But this is the triumph of spite and meanness and the death-knell of Christian piety and humanity. This is no matter of victory or glory but of sorrow and shame, and brings out the seamy side of human life and nature.
A fable, in a loose sense, is a tale with a moral. A moral significance flows underneath a common story in it. A Poison Tree has a popular story element in the patter of a fable. Like a fable, it carries a moral note which reflects on the evil of envy and enmity. The poison tree symbolizes the venom of hate and hostility which is nurtured by suppressed wrath, fear, suspicion, hypocrisy and cruelty, and has dangerous impacts.