Wednesday, March 31, 2010


One of Blake's better known poems treats the consequences of hiding our feelings. In A Poison Tree (click on picture for larger image) he describes a situation where negative emotions - fear, wrath, deceit - are allowed to fester and grow without being acknowledged or expressed. The neighbor and brother who is seen as the enemy, is destroyed by a plot. The external enemy is eliminated but the inner foe has been strengthened.


"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 veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree."

In another passage Blake warns against thinking that we can understand another's mind and motivation. The point is that we can't enter one another's brains. We know what has been given to us to know. But others may know more or different. Another's joy is not our joy not his suffering our suffering. Each of us is related directly to God and answers to Him.

A Poison Tree and this passage from The French Revolution are both pleas that we look on one another as equal before God deserving of tolerance, patience and compassion.

French Revolution (E 294)
"But go, merciless man! enter into the infinite labyrinth of
another's brain
Ere thou measure the circle that he shall run. Go, thou cold
recluse, into the fires
Of another's high flaming rich bosom, and return
unconsum'd, and write laws.
If thou canst not do this, doubt thy theories, learn to consider
all men as thy equals,
Thy brethren, and not as thy foot or thy hand, unless thou first
fearest to hurt them."

Unless we constantly annihilate the Selfhood, each of us falls deeper and deeper into the trap of not finding ourselves and each of our brothers equal and valuable before God.

No comments: