A Poison Tree by William Blake

“A Poison Tree,” which explores the dangers of anger and revenge, was first published in Blake’s Songs of Experience in 1794. It has been set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Ten Blake Songs cycle (1958) and again in 1965 by Benjamin Britten as part of his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake song cycle.

William Blake's handwritten poem, "A Poison Tree."

“A Poison Tree” by William Blake, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Poison Tree

by William Blake

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

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

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree.

A reading of the poem

Read by Martin Harris


Listen to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “A Poison Tree”.

Listen to the Benjamin Brittain interpretation, too.

The theme of this poem reminds me of the children’s poem, “Anger,” by Charles and Mary Lamb. You can read it at the Charles Lamb Index page.

Songs of Experience Introduction by William Blake

William Blake Poetry

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