Poetic Spotlight: A Poison Tree


The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...

Portrait of William Blake. Public domain, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

Well, if you missed it at Pretzels and Bullfights Monday, today we’re nestling ourselves rather nicely under the literary boughs of the great William Blake.

Blake was an English poet, painter and playwright of one of the most recognized and explored poetic periods today: the Romantic Age. An engaging and expressive man by all accounts, since his death he has become recognized as one of England‘s most skilled poets.

Blake’s works are often notable for their thoughtful, if tricky, use of symbolism and allegory in addressing their respective themes and issues. The man himself is also notable in that, while like many of the day, he held a great reverence for the Bible and for his faith (it factored into many of his writings), Blake also held a certain vehemence toward the concept of the organized religion. In his day it was at best considered a shocking view. In addition, his paintings often dabbled in biblical and mythical themes, to unique and beautiful ends…

A Poison Tree:

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 waterd it in fears,
Night & 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 veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.

~William Blake

Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clo...

"The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun," one of Blake's artistic beauties. Public domain, image care of wikimedia commons.

World Poetry, Part Four

For day four’s favorite poetry selection, I give you British poet Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress:”

Andrew Marvell, care of Wikimedia Commons.

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

~Andrew Marvell

World Poetry, Part Deux

For day two’s favorite poetry selection, I give you English poet John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud:”


John Donne, care of Wikimedia Commons.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and souls delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sicknesse dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

~John Donne

Burning Letters

Been caught in a funk lately. A semi-writer’s block. Not enjoying it, I must say. Even so, that’s not stopped me from putting up another One Shot Wednesday piece this week, but I’d once again caution, not my best. If you see any issues, rip it apart to your best. Maybe critique will jar me from the funk and get the mind working again.

They say it’s good to have confidence no matter what but…well…yeah. Too self-conscious for that nonsense! At any rate, I give to you, “The Smell of Burning Synonyms,” and also a great video from Stephen Fry on language.

Burn me with letters and I

will put those letters in the fire,

the ashes will become the ink

of your iniquity, this quill like

sword, slow-moving through the black

ichor of disapproval, spooning out

doubt’s desire; why is it Synonyms

always burn the hottest?

* My latest contribution to the wonderful One Shot Poetry Wednesdays! Once you’ve had a look, check out some of the other One Shot Poets as well–they’re a skilled bunch of poets, with a strong and supportive community.  Enjoy!