The Sick Rose is an ancient poem by William Blake. It is a relatively short poem with simple language. My interpretation is that the poem talks about ove and death. Roses are significantly used to portray love, but in the poem the Rose is being destroyed by the worm in the night. Blake is talking about the spread of a bad thing, a worm that destroys a good thing. The worm is also said to spread only at night. The night here is a symbol of a secret. It could a symbol of infidelity that destroys a relationship. The poem is metaphorical beginning with its title, ‘the sick rose’. The Rose here is a metaphor for love, love that is ill or sick. The term worm as used in the poem makes reference to a disease called infidelity that unknowingly transmitted in the night. The lines have found out thy bed, of crimson joy, and his dark secret love is referring to a married man fornicating with a prostitute and then going back to his wife. ‘And his dark secret love that thy life destroy,’ means that because syphilis is spreading to the child, it is the child’s life that is lost.
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The Sick Rose adopts the ABCB rhyme scheme; in the first stanza the rhyming lines illustrate the intention of the worm, which is to destroy the rose. The first line of the poem, ‘O Rose, thou art sick’ informs the reader that the Rose is sick and cannot be treated. A look at the third line in the very same first stanza, the worm is said to work in darkness. As mentioned earlier darkness is symbolic of secrets. The worm is deceitful and goes behind the rose’s back to destroy it. The second Stanza illustrates the ABCB rhyme scheme. The stanza shows that that worm finally destroyed the rose. Using the bed illustrates a sexualized atmosphere where the worm found the rose’s bed and destroyed its life because the Rose is very sick (Malla 3).
My interpretation of the poem is a relationship that is destroyed by acts of infidelity. A worm is a symbol of infidelity that is transmitted by an infidelity partner. The infidelity partner commits his or her acts in secrecy and eventually destroys the whole relationship and the happiness of the other partner in the relationship. The innocent partner is sick and joy because of the worm (infidelity partner). The darkness is a representation of a relationship on the rocks. The faithful partner cannot therefore see what the worm is doing.
The Sick Rose shows that love is beautiful and can be destroyed by the smallest mistake. Destroying of love always happens to hurt the other person; the rose is being destroyed in this case by the worm. The sick Rose is drawn for the collection of poems known as the Songs of Experiences this is evidenced from the reality it portrays. Relationships are not easy and most of the time never meets the expectations. The poem is not imaginative in any way; it is a realistic account of love.
From the religious point of view, I thought the worm is the poem is symbolic for a snake, the sin that eats away the rose or the good in people. The worm is the devil that is cunning and lies to Eve in the Garden of Eden. The worm corrupts the rose and ruins its life for good. The rose is cast away because of sin.
Malla, Noelia. “O Rose Thou Art Sick’: Floral symbolism in William Blake’s Poetry. Journals of Arts and Humanities (JAH), 2014.
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