Friday, May 07, 2010

The Trees: of Life and Mystery

Here's a poem from Songs of Experience:

"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 water'd 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 veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree."

You could say all sorts of things about this poem: an immediate allusion to the first garden.  Three characters here, or perhaps four: I am two people: that of God in me confesses my feelings, there's an implied forgiveness; there's an unspoken tree of life.  The other "i" is my selfhood, that of Satan in me; I dissemble, like the hypocrite I am; I brood over being wronged, and fantasize getting even with that s.o.b.  That's the way the devilish tree came about.

In fact Blake explained it baldly in another of the Songs of Experience, call The Human Abstract:

Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.

And mutual fear brings peace,
Till the selfish loves increase:
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly
Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree;
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain.

A Poison Tree
The Tree of Mystery
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  All too often what we take to be good is taken by another to be evil, or vice versa.

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