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Cross compare the treatment of human nature in ‘Poison Tree’ and

‘Night’

‘Night’ is a poem that suggests the worlds of innocence


and experience coexist, and are dependent on each other.
Experience cannot exist without innocence and vice versa,
they are the inter-dependent states of a being. The word
‘farewell’ makes us feel that transposition of entering world of
‘experience’, and leaving ‘innocence’ behind. The poem
consists of simple diction, and adapts a song-like form which is
typical of Blake’s poetry. Each stanza is divided into two
quatrains, the first made up of regular iambs and the second of
anapaests. The effect of this places heavy emphasis on the
first half of each stanza compared to the second half, which
holds a much lighter tone. It suggests that human nature is full
of contraries and rather than being separate entities, they form
to exist as one.
The ‘flocks have took delight’ and the ‘lambs have
nibbled’ paints a rural, idyllic and pastoral image. The
benevolent presences of angels are positive, and places a
sense of security, especially as night closes in. The ‘angels’ are
symbols of charity. Their maternal, caring nature is illustrated
as they ‘look in every thoughtless nest’. In the third stanza the
angels ‘pour sleep on their head’, providing comfort and a
means to soothe. The alternative rhyming adds a sense of
child like essence causing the poem to appear simple that
undermines its true message. As like many of Blake’s poems,
there are always unsettling meanings hidden behind the
simple diction. Words such as ‘silent’, ‘descending’ and
‘evening’ hint to an uneasy atmosphere, and the ‘shadows’
implies a mysterious threat, making it quite dramatic.
The fourth stanza contrasts and implies drama, the
‘beasts’ arrive, creating a sense of feral and danger. The angel
cannot stop them since it is in their nature. As night arrives, we
see they are powerless to prevent the onslaught of the beasts
as they ‘howl for their prey’. The immortal day is the realms of
heaven. This stanza produces the vision of the lion, the biblical
allusion from the Old Testament. We see how the lion’s image
is changed in the immortal day. Its true nature is carnivorous,
but in heaven, there is calm and peace – done through Christ.
Blake’s belief in the divine human is being said here. Isaiah
11:6 describes the prophesy where the lion shall lie next to the
lamb without having the need to slaughter it.
‘A Poison Tree’ captures the nature of humans in a way
that portrays us in a negative light. It suggests we all harbour
the ability to hurt others. This is a contrary to the qualities of
human nature described in ‘The Divine Image’, but similar to ‘A
Divine Image’, where it describes the dark qualities that make
us immoral. This desire to hurt others is considered as a
universal emotion since we can all empathise with the feeling.
This desire that serves to hurt, acts like ‘poison’ as it spreads,
‘grew both day and night’. The first stanza stresses the
importance of openness and honesty as it outlines what
happens when anger is expressed and conveyed, ‘I told my
wrath, my wrath did end’. However, with a ‘foe’, the narrator
keeps his thoughts to himself, and the belligerent grudge
slowly builds up.
Blake employs an extended metaphor of a tree and this
can be interpreted in several ways. The tree could represent
the ‘wrath’ which the ‘foe beheld it shine’. It is possible that
the foe eventually realised the wrath directed towards him
belongs to the narrator. The word ‘wrath’ and the exploration
of man’s relationship with his enemies is reminds us of God’s
wrath and forces us to consider the teachings of both the Old
and New Testaments on jealousy and forgiveness. The events
of the last stanza have both spiritual and symbolic significance.
The act of revenge alone is a dark act, but the fact that the
avenger is ‘glad’ gives us an insight into the callous side of
human nature. Should we act as the fearful and vengeful God
described in the Old Testament, or should we overcome our
grudge and anger as directed in the New Testament? Both
poems (‘Night’ and ‘The Poison Tree’) raises question related
to creation. Since we are dealing with the dark side of human
nature, we might wonder why god has made us this way if he
intended us to be good beings. Why allow us to feel
wickedness towards others if we should really care and
empathise?

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