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 backgrounds, deal with nature, and carry a message of similar tenor, criticism of repression of human emotions. One of Blake’s characteristics is simple wording and uncomplicated language that can be explained on different levels. In addition, bothe poems are narrated in the 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 the 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 the Christian religion.
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While both poems express criticism of suppression, each of them discusses a different area. The poem “The Garden of Love” deals mainly with the church’s repression of “joys and desires”. 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 newly 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 of nature. However, 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 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 the Freudian idea of the Superego’s control over the Id. In this case, the Church, with its strict rules and limitations, represents the Superego, 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 the same author writes them, their style and structure are very similar. While the themes of both poems belong under the same broad topic of criticism of the repression, each elaborates a different section.