TitleA Poison Tree
Details32×40″, oil on panel, 2014
LocationAvailable through Gallery 1261 in Denver, CO
2014 “The Uncanny,” S. R. Brennen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM
2015 Exhibited at the Museu Eropeu d’Art Modern, Barcelona, Portugal
2016 Exhibited at the Salmagundi Club in New York, NY
Recipient of an ARC Staff Award in the 11th Annual Art Renewal Center Salon
A Poison Tree
By William Blake
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 watered 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 veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
“A Poison Tree” was first published in 1794 in a collection titled “Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.” With its simple diction and cantering rhythm, it seems to modern readers to be suited for a young audience. And yet, its content is sinister. I interpret it as a cautionary tale: be careful about letting wicked thoughts and feelings take root. Poisonous thoughts are seeds that grow with a life of their own into trees that bear poisonous fruit.
Because “Songs of Experience and Innocence” explores childhood as its theme, and because Blake’s voice has the facile tone and meter of a traditional nursery rhyme, I cast children as my actors. The subjects of this painting are the son and daughter of one of my cousins. The little boy is Paul. He is captured in another painting, “Huntsman and Herdsman.” His sister Emily is famous for her piercing dark gaze. It is her intense stare that qualifies her for this complex and psychological role as the cultivator of the Poison Tree.