Themes

An apple tree with a misty haze
A growing apple tree is an extended metaphor for growing anger

A number of unifying ideas or themes run through the poem. Different readers may attach more or less significance to each of these themes, depending upon how they view the poem.

ThemeEvidenceAnalysis
Anger: the basic human emotion which sets the events of this poem in motion. Although it is not necessarily wrong in itself, how we go about dealing with anger is extremely important. '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.' The first stanza (lines that make up a section of a poem) contrasts two different ways of dealing with anger and the two different outcomes that may occur as a result.
Deception: the speaker bottles things up and does not talk about his feelings to his enemy. The enemy sneaks into the garden in the dead of night to take the fruit. 'And he knew that it was mine,/ And into my garden stole''Stole' is an interesting choice of word. While it has the clear meaning that the enemy sneaked in under cover of darkness it also reminds the reader that it is an act of theft.
Communication: the poet/speaker communicates a direct moral lesson to the reader about the disastrous consequences of his own failure to communicate with another person. 'I told my wrath', 'I told it not.'This simple but direct use of antithesis (the use of opposites) shows how simple it would be to talk about an issue but equally how easy it is to say nothing and let resentment grow.
Question

How does the poet show that anger is a basic human emotion?

  • By not telling us anything about the two people involved, Blake shows that this is an emotion that can affect anyone.
  • He uses a simple but effective image of a tree growing in a garden.
  • The poem's uncomplicated structure suggests something basic is being examined.