Interpretations

A selection of key words and phrases from A Poison Tree

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some quotations from the poem with different possible interpretations. How would you interpret the poem?

Examples

Interpretation of the line: 'And it grew both day and night,/ Till it bore an apple bright;'

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The apple represents the anger growing large and ripening.The apple has been chosen as a symbol because it is a common fruit and hatred and revenge are common feelings in human beings.
The apple refers to the apple in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden.The poet chooses the apple as a reference to the Biblical story, a tale that most of Blake’s readers would have been familiar with. The speaker could be likened to a serpent tempting his enemy.

Interpretation of the line: 'And I water'd it in fears./ Night and morning with my tears;'

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The speaker intentionally helps resentment and anger to grow.He deliberately cultivates the growing tree (anger) with tears of frustration and a refusal to communicate with his enemy.
The speaker accidentally helps resentment and anger to grow.His tears are ones of sorrow as he worries about his relationship with his enemy.