The Garden of Love and A Poison Tree by William Blake

The Garden of Love and A Poison Tree by William Blake

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The Garden of Love and A Poison Tree by William Blake

William Blake’s poems “The Garden of Love” and “A Poison Tree”, both
of them belonging to the collection “Songs of Experience”, share
resembling style and structure. Even though their plots might appear
different, they both have religious background and deal with nature
and carry a message of similar tenor, criticism of repression of human

One of Blake’s characteristics is the use of simple wording and
uncomplicated language that can be explained on different levels. Both
of these poems are narrated in first person, like stories about
experiences, creating an impression of personal connection. By using
various images Blake illustrates abstract concepts in physical means
and with help of hidden clues he effectively expresses his criticism.
In the poem “The Garden of Love” the “Chapel” with “shut…gates”,
“priests in black gowns” and “briars” represent the church, while in
the poem “A Poison Tree” it’s the “apple” and the “poison tree”,
apparently standing for the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden,
that gives the reader an indication of Christian religion.

While both poems express criticism of suppression, each of them
discusses a different area. The poem “The Garden of Love” deals mainly
with repression of “joys and desires” by the church. The speaker in
this poem returns to the Garden of Love and instead of freedom and
natural view of love he finds “a chapel …built in the midst” and
“priests in black gowns” who bound his “ joys and desires…with briars”
(The Garden of Love). It is worth noting that the lettering “Thou
Shalt not” written “over the door” of the new built “Chapel” (The
Garden of Love) might refer to the 95 theses nailed to the door of
Wittenberg church by the German religious reformer Martin Luther.

Both poems deal with the topic about nature. In the “Garden of Love”
the “sweet flowers”, representing all the pleasant joys of love, were
replaced by cold and lifeless “graves” and “tombstones” whereas in the
poem “A Poison Tree” a hateful “apple” was born to poison the “foe” of

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the speaker. The apple was created by a growing “wrath”, “fears” and
“deceitful wiles”. It was meant to be stolen and eaten by the “foe” of
the speaker so he would “outstretch beneath the tree”.

From the psychological view, “The Garden of Love” covers Freudan idea
of Superego’s control over the Id. In this case Church with its strict
rules and limitations represents the Superego which is policing Id,
the natural human desires, passions and needs. On the other hand, “A
Poison Tree” describes the psychological states of anger and hatred by
showing how the poisoned “apple” grew. <- (develop this more)

“The Garden of Love” and “A poison tree” are very tricky poems because
they hide very deep and complicated thoughts under their evident
simplicity. As they are written by the same author, their style and
structure is very similar. While the themes of both poems belong under
the same broad topic of criticism of the repression each of them
elaborates a different section.
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