‘Poison Tree,’ by William Blake, a poem of an enemy being poisoned by an apple from a tree and ‘Strange Meeting,’ By Wilfred Owen, a conversation between two enemies; are both a subject of friendship and enemies. However both writers, in completely diverse methods express the running theme of ‘friendship’.
The theme of friendship in ‘Poison Tree’ is expressed through ‘anger.’ It is through this anger that the distinction between friends and enemies can be made. Blake argues that the anger between a friend will die down, “I was angry with my friend…my wrath did end.” In contrast, however, between enemies it ‘never’ dies, but instead grows, “I was angry at my foe…my wrath did grow.” Here there is a clear separation between enemy and friend, and a clear distinction through the way the writer feels towards both. Friendship seems to come across as a forever lasting bond, a bond of ‘humanity’ in which there are the highs and lows of life and anger being one of many emotions, however the relationship between enemies is simply about anger and hatred with nothing more.
However, friendship and enemies in ‘Strange Meeting’ is presented in an opposite way to that of in ‘Poison Tree.’ The writer claims that it is the circumstances that drive ordinary people to become enemies, where in reality they may have become ‘friends.’ Writer, Wilfred Owen, ‘jabbed and killed’ an enemy the previous day, however ‘today’ this man is addressing Owen as his friend, “I am the enemy you killed, my friend.” From here readers learn that these men are on the front line, for their country and their government and not for their personal gains. The men, are human, they are completing their duty. They are not killing for the thrill of killing, but are killing for the reason that they ‘have’ to kill, have been given ‘orders.’ These men, in ‘reality and in normal’ circumstances would have been friends, however the circumstances on the front line are different, and the men are driven to become enemies and not friends. They are not fighting for personal motives.
The soldier in Poison Tree, seems to be fighting for personal gains, this is expressed through the continuous use of, “I.” This one letter alone comes across to the readers as a sign of possessiveness. Which may indicate a ‘personal motive’ for the fighting and the war. Which may indicate to the reader that, friendship has no meaning to this soldier, he will kill, if he had to kill, for his own possessions and his own gains. The war here comes across as a fight for ones motives and not for the country, which war should essentially be about. Whereas, in comparison to ‘Strange Meeting,’ the soldier, still respects the enemy through addressing him as his ‘friend.’ He still shows a certain amount of respect for the man’s feelings, as he allows him to rest.
The ending of the poem, ‘Poison Tree’ portrays the enemy in an extremely unpleasant manner. There is an undertone of deliberate murder by ruthless poison, a premeditated murder, in which the harsh feelings of the enemy are revealed, ‘My foe outstretched beneath the tree.’
However, ‘Strange Meeting,’ ends on a more content and peaceful situation. There seems to be an air of mutual understanding between the two soldiers… ‘Let us sleep…’
Overall, both poems discuss the relationship between friends and enemies. However, the definition of a ‘friend’ comes across in a different way, the meaning of ‘friendship’ means separate terms in each poem. Poison Tree, portrays friends to have eternal bonds, regardless of misunderstandings, anger/wraths disappear when it comes to friends. But enemies are those who are never forgotten, the wrath ‘grows’ but does not end. Whereas, in ‘Strange Meeting,’ an enemy can become a friend, they too are portrayed as human beings, who deserve the eternal bond of friendship, even if it is only for a moment, in one ‘Strange Meeting.’