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.’

The Sick Rose by William Blake

The poem describes how peaceful innocence is shattered / grasped by dark experiences. The poem depicts the destruction of innocence by greed and avarice. The poet presents a symbolism, a rose is seduced by an invisible worm with the darkest desire in its heart to break the hymen/virginity of Rose in the stormy night. The writer has told us a story about the destruction of love through utter selfishness and mean mentality using the symbolism of rose and worm. Holy innocence is brought about by mature experiences, and platonic holy love is brought about by seductive desire. According to the poet, guillotine/murder real love is repressed secret feelings of love.

Love is peaceful and innocent as long as it is free of lust. But when bodily desire triumphs over love, love loses all of its radiance and allure. According to William Blake, love should not be surpassed by flashy attraction; the poet has represented the darkest desire of the human soul to enjoy the blooming beauty at its best through the attire/symbolism of a sick rose. The so-called symbol of ethereal heavenly beauty, Rose, was transformed into “Sick Rose,” the beauty of it looted and plundered and it became sick, The Sick Rose.

The picture of a blighted rose, which had its beauty destroyed by an invisible worm, continues. The worm, which has serpent connotations in the Garden of Eden, is associated with lust, both because of its resemblance with the male organ 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.’

Analysis of The Sick Rose ( Line by Line)

The poem talks about a sick rose and a worm who discovers the rose’s “bed of crimson joy.” The worm destroys the rose with his “dark secret love,” a not-so-subtle allusion to some form of destructive sexuality.

Lines 1-4: Summary

Line 1

O rose thou art sick

The poem opens with the speaker addressing the rose. The speaker tells the rose that it is sick.

Lines 2-4

The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm

The speaker refers to the “invisible worm” as an “invisible worm.” The worm can also fly when it rains. We have no idea what role this worm plays in the poem or even what kind of worm it is. An invisible worm with the ability to fly? Is it a butterfly of some kind?

Lines 5-6

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:

The speaker provides additional information about the worm, stating that it has discovered the rose’s bed. This bed’s status is unclear. It could simply be a sleeping spot for the rose that is “crimson.” Additionally, it could be a “bed” of something, such as a “bed of roses” or another red object. This would imply that the rose is some kind of gardener.

Lines 7-8

And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

The speaker informs us that the rose is killed by the worm’s “love.” It is strange that “love” is responsible for the death of something here, given that we normally associate love with life. “Dark secret love” may refer to one of three things. This may refer to the worm’s love, as in “My love for you will never die.”
Additionally, it could refer to something the worm adores, as in “Hello, my love, I’m home”. It could also be used to refer to the act of making love, or sex.


The two quatrains of this poem rhyme ABCB. The ominous rhythm of these short, two-beat lines contributes to the poem’s sense of foreboding or dread and complements the unflinching directness with which the speaker tells the rose she is dying.

Symbolism and Imagery in The Sick Rose

The poet here showcases the ethereal beauty of a serene innocent lady through simple imagery and the Allegory of Rose. But that paradise of beauty has been ravaged by the darkest desire, and “The Rose” has become “The Sick Rose.” After losing her virginity to an illicit love of a corrupt person, the woman herself becomes sick. The worm alludes to Satan, the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve and brought about their fall in the Bible. Under the shroud/veil of symbolism, the poem tells us the story of humanity’s fall from innocence.
Allegory is a symbolical narrative with a profound symbolism hidden beneath the surface.

i. Rose – The rose is a well-known and traditional symbol of beauty, modesty, and tranquil innocence. The symbolism of Rose here has been given a new dimension by the poet William Blake’s superb artistry. The rose is diametrically opposed to the traditional symbolism of informal sense.

ii. Worm – Worm conjures up images of the Biblical serpent (Satan in disguise). Nature’s ethereal beauty is destroyed by a venomous or poisonous source.

iii. Bed of Crimson Joy – It represents the bliss of sweet sensual pleasure.

iv. Dark secret love – induces sickness

v. The Dark Night – Implicitly suggested a symbolic meaning for love and malice, and it is a presumption that all uncanny hush hush matters take place at night.

The writer has depicted/presented the slaying/killing of innocence with the darkest desire of contaminated / poisonous love through all of this imagery and symbolism.

Model Questions (Solved)

Q. Describe William Blake as a visionary poet with reference to “The Sick Rose”:

Answer. William Blake’s poems are imbued with vision, zeal, and ideas. With his experiences, he investigates a variety of dialectics. “The Sick Rose” is a storey about Blake’s vision of human experience.

Blake has used demurring / destruction of rose’s innocence through symbolism and imagery to illustrate the greed and avarice of the experienced heart and soul. In a night of deluge, the secret sensual pleasure overwhelms the rose’s bed of crimson Joy. A fleshy love’s dark desire ruffles the dewy petals of an innocent rose. The writer here depicts/presents the virgin rose’s loss of chastity through this imagery. The worm is a reference to the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve in the Bible.

Under the guise of symbolism, the assimilation of all of these symbolism and imagery has shaped the world of experiences.

Q. What role does Rose play? Or Discuss the Symbol of Rose.

Answer. Rose is central to the poem “The Sick Rose.” The rose has been addressed as a sick rose in this case. On the horizon of world literature, the rose is a stock symbolism of beauty, modesty, and serenity. It represents a beautiful girl, stunning beauty; traditionally, the rose is associated with innocence, purity, modesty, and ethereal bliss; however, in this poem, the rose is sick; it lacks the paramount of good quality that is bestowed upon it. In this context, the rose is not a symbol of innocence; rather, it has been dubbed “the sick,” owing to its foul odour of experience. The experience detracts from its quality rather than improving it.

Q. How the innocence of Rose is being destructed?

Answer. Rose’s purity, essence, flavour, chastity, and innocence are being ravaged by howling winds and worms (Illicit love affair, sexual gratification, sensualistic pleasure, and carnal attraction) Insatiable thirst can only be quenched by revelling in the pores and warmth of love, and possibly by the breaking of the hymen, which has been symbolised by crimson joy. The crimson bed of joy represents an illicit, carnal, fleshy desire for sensualistic gratification. Though she is publicly modest, she became passionately wild when the darkness pouncing on her. Her illness is a direct result of her own passion. The worm (carnal desire, unsocial sexual gratification, yearning to break the hymen, utter desire to deny virginity) has discovered her bed of crimson joy solely to satisfy her carnal need. Thus, beauty and innocence attract evil, only to be loved and then abandoned.

Q. What is the role of Worm in The Sick Rose?
Answer. In Blake’s poem ” The Sick Rose,” ” The Worm ” represents evil force, illicit love affairs, unsocial sexual gratification, sensualistic pleasure, carnal attraction, longing to break the hymen, and desire to destroy virginity. It is incapable of corrupting ethereal, eternal innocence. The invisible worm, which is nothing more than an insatiable desire to enjoy every pore and flesh of the lover, proves lethal/fatal to the Rose. The surging storm energises the worm, which seeks refuge in the crimson joy rose’s bed. The worm evokes the Biblical Serpent, who is actually Satan. It is a symbol of evil, carnal desire, unsocial sexual gratification, and a burning desire to break the hymen, corrupting the force that destroys Nature’s beauty. A rose’s life is destroyed by his dark secret love. Thus, the worm becomes a destructive instrument with a subtle allegorical undertone, representing the invisible worm as Platonic loveless sexuality that corrupts humanity, plunging it into a state of sinfulness imbued with complete sexual gratification.

Q. Discuss the symbol of Howling Storm .

Answer. Howling storm is an etymological term that refers to a violent storm. Separately, ” Howling ” refers to making a prolonged, loud noise; it is a form of Onomatopoeia, whereas ” The storm ” refers to extremely inclement weather accompanied by high winds and torrential rain. The ” howling Storm ” represents an uncontrollable lethal attraction that can only be satisfied through sexual desire, sensualist bliss, or sweet indolence. “The Storm” is a metaphor for evil, carnal desire, unsocial sexual gratification, a burning desire to break the hymen, and an all-consuming desire to destroy virginity, corrupting the force that destroys Nature’s beauty.

Q. What does Crimson suggest? How this joy does turn into a premonition of destruction at the end?

Answer. Crimson is an deeply dark shade of red. It entails pernicious sexual gratification. Rose is referred to as crimson joy in a metaphorical sense. A seductive demonical lover is profoundly moved by the joy. The word ” Crimson ” has subtly and artistically expressed a sexuality in this instance. The term “crimson” most likely refers to the rupture of the hymen (chastity or virginity). The joy is crimson because it is both sexual repression and a denial of innocence.

The crimson joy is a symbol of virginity loss because when the hymen is disrupted/ruffled, the crimson colour oozes from it, colouring the canvass of virginity. When virginity and loss of virginity prior to social marriage are considered a source of shame. It is a symbol, not an omen, and it proclaims that virginity is about to be converted to motherhood, rather than the lady being stamped as a whore.

Important Questions and Answers

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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