Liberal Humanism on A Poison Tree Poem by William Blake


Liberal Humanism or Formalism is a literary theory which can be used to analyze a literary work. It is often called a theory before “theory” for it is a transition to the real theory. The Liberal Humanism theory concentrates only on the literary work itself for every literary work is unique in its own way.

            The Liberal Humanism theory can be comprehended more clearly in its 10 tenets. One, the attitude to the literary work. Good literature is  timeless beauty. Itcan somehow jump over its creation timeand focuses on humane universal values. Two, every literary work has its own meaning. It does not have to be seen in a certain context.

Three, the Liberal Humanism theory demands that a literary work mustbe released from any contextsand studied independently to be well comprehended. Four, the theory says that human nature never changes. Similar passions, emotions and situations are experienced continuouslythroughout one’s life.

Five, the Liberal Humanism theory views an individuality as something securely-owned in every human being due to its nature as “a unique essence. Six, the theory believes that the purpose of literature isto improve life and spread  humane values.

Seven, the Liberal Humanism theory believes that a literary form should not be like a decoration applied externally to a completed structure. Eight,sincerity lives inthe language of literatureand is to be discovered inthe literary work.When the language achieves the qualities, it can seem to enact what it depicts and thereby “erasing” the reference.

Nine, the Liberal Humanism theory view literary work valuing silence demonstratingsomething. Ideas are useless unless given any applications. Ten, the Liberal Humanism theory isto interpret the text (Barry, 2009:16-20).

The writer will now use the Liberal Humanism theory to analyze a literary work. The literary work analyzed is the poetry by William Blake entitled A Poison Tree. Through the Liberal Humanism theory, the writer finds 3 elements in the poetry: symbolism, connotations and figurative languages.

In symbolism, the title A Poison Tree symbolizes the wrath that the poet has towards his foe. Next, an apple bright in Till it bore an apple bright symbolizes an excellent result. In addition, the words my garden in And into my garden stole symbolizes the poet’s heart where the wrath (symbolized by the poisonous tree) is growing. Furthermore, pole in When the night had veiled the pole symbolizes the wrath within the poet’s heart which has grown so big.    

In terms of connotation, did grow in I told it not; my wrath did grow means getting bigger from time to time. The same meaning is also conveyed in the term grew in And it grew both day and night. Moreover, bore in Till it bore an apple bright means produce something due to a certain process undergone beforehand. In addition, the term stole in And into my garden stole connotes annoying the poet.

In terms of figurative languages, the writer finds hyperbole, personification and paradox in the poetry. The first is hyperbole where one exaggerates something. In the poetry, it is seen in the lines I was angry with my friend, I told my wrath, my wrath did end where the poet uses the term wrath just to represent his anger.The second is personification where one gives an attribute of human-being to a dead thing. In the poetry, it is represented in the line I told it not; my wrath did grow where the poet gives the attribution grow to a wrath as a dead thing. It is also found in the word veiled in the line When the night had veiled the pole where the poet gives the humane attribute veiled to the night as a dead thing. The third is oxymoron where one states 2 opposite things. In the poetry, the representations are in the line Night and morning with my tears where the poet knows that night and morning are completely 2 different things.

In theme, having analyzed the poetry, the writer concludes a theme with a universal value in it. The theme is it is difficult to forgive enemies. It can be seen from the line I was angry with my foe until My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

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