THE SICK ROSE BY WILLIAM BLAKE
Summary of Sick Rose
“The Sick Rose” is a poem written by William Blake first published in 1794 and like Blake’s other poems such as The Tyger and The Lamb, it was also included in Songs of Experience. The poem uses a narrator who addresses the rose, the symbol of love, with the words ‘ thou art sick.’ In the following lines, the picture of a blighted rose, which had its beauty destroyed by an invisible maggot, continues. The worm, which has serpent connotations in the Garden of Eden, is associated with sex, both because of its resemblance with penis and also because in the tale of the Bible, it was the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to gain knowledge, including sexual knowledge, which led to their downfall. There are references to the ‘caterpillar’ as well that Blake uses to symbolize a destroyer.
The invisible worm is a secret agent, and it flies’ in the night,’ a symbol of chaos and passion, but also a symbol of materialism, under the cover of darkness and in’ the howling storm.’ However, it finds out ‘thy bed of crimson joy’. The bed may mean the rose bed as well as the lover’s bed, and the crimson joy reflects both the rose colour (the colour of love) and the female genitals. In this case, ‘his dark secret love / Does thy life destroy.’ This can have a tangible sense in the shape of sexually transmitted disease, but it may also mean that relationships that need to be furtive and shameful are ruined by this need for secrecy.
Some people saw the illness as being psychological, a product of unacted impulses. Blake wanted love to be free and accessible, so people should enjoy each other without being told by the church that it was prohibited or sinful. This can be associated with other poems, such as’ The Garden of Love,’ where priests ‘bind with briars / my joys and desires’ and also with ‘London’ where ‘the youthful harlot’s curse/blights with plagues the marriage hearse.’
Important Questions about the poem
Q. A rose is a traditional symbol of love. What may be the poem’s symbolic message or meaning?
Answers may vary. Example: The rose (love) is being killed by a worm (a symbol of death). The “crimson bed” may be destroyed by the ways in which love is often unspoken of, as it causes blushing (one’s cheeks to turn to crimson).
Q. What is the poem’s rhyme scheme? What does this scheme infer about the poem’s tone?
Ans. The poem consists of two stanzas, rhyming A/B/A/B. The scheme suggests a sense of directness and dread that accompanies love’s demise.
Q. After reading this short work, what do you think author felt when he created it? Use evidence from the text for support.
Answers may vary. Example: The poem begins with an exclamation, which exudes strong emotion of surprise, despair, or regret. The poem ends with the word “destroy,” maintaining the sad, angry, negative tone of the poem.
Q. What is the central idea of the poem The Sick Rose?
Ans. The Sick Rose’ is a William Blake poem that centres around the themes of love, innocence and sex through only two stances.
Q. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem The Sick Rose?
Ans. The poem has two four-line stanzas, each having an ABCB rhyme scheme. Once the poem is correctly read, the short, two-beat lines contain an eerie rhythm that adds to the sense of fear and foreboding in the poem.
Q. What is the allegorical significance of the poem The Sick Rose?
Ans. “The Sick Rose” allegorizes that the experience prevails over innocence. Externally, it’s a simple poem. This reveals how a beautiful rose on a stormy night is struck by a poisonous worm. The worm’s passion for the rose is considered to be dark and elusive.
Q. Why is the joy Crimson in Colour?
Ans. “Crimson joy” simply refers to the rose’s beautiful red colour ( the colour of love) and the female genitals. The bed may mean the rose bed as well as the lover’s bed. From another angle, the word ‘ crimson joy’ implies ensuring elegance. While the spectator’s eye is soothed by the crimson colour, the perception of the expression of joy satisfies a viewer’s heart. Thus, it stands also for the rose’s repressed sexuality.
Q. What is the effect of the worm on the rose?
Ans. Literally, a worm feeds on a rose. Figuratively, a worm depicts the decline of love. As the worm feeds, the rose, “love,” vanishes. Thus, one could say that one-sided love will never survive.
Q. What does the sick rose mean?
Ans. Although the rose exists as a beautiful natural object that has been marred by a parasite, it also exists as a symbolic rose, the traditional symbol of love. The rose is diseased, and the poem implies that love also is sick and the rose is unaware of her disease.
Q. Why is the love in the poem the sick rose secret?
Ans. The rose is a symbol of love destroyed by selfishness. A worm has entered a crimson rose, sickened it, and eaten it. This devastation may be indicative of the destruction that deception, deceit, hypocrisy, and pain have triggered. In The Sick Rose, the secret of love becomes a disease.
Q. What biblical reference is mentioned in the poem The Sick Rose?
Ans. The serpent symbolically represents the evil in the Bible, and because the worm in the poem “The Sick Rose” destroys the rose, the worm is evil too. The worm even implies sexual relation with rose.
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