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Songs of Innocence and Experience

William Blake

“The Sick Rose”

“London”

Study Questions

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

Summary

The speaker, addressing a rose, informs it that it is sick. An “invisible” worm has stolen into its bed in a “howling storm” and under the cover of night. The “dark secret love” of this worm is destroying the rose’s life.

Form

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.

Commentary

While the rose exists as a beautiful natural object that has become infected by a worm, it also exists as a literary rose, the conventional symbol of love. The image of the worm resonates with the Biblical serpent and also suggests a phallus. Worms are quintessentially earthbound, and symbolize death and decay. The “bed” into which the worm creeps denotes both the natural flowerbed and also the lovers’ bed. The rose is sick, and the poem implies that love is sick as well. Yet the rose is unaware of its sickness. Of course, an actual rose could not know anything about its own condition, and so the emphasis falls on the allegorical suggestion that it is love that does not recognize its own ailing state. This results partly from the insidious secrecy with which the “worm” performs its work of corruption—not only is it invisible, it enters the bed at night. This secrecy indeed constitutes part of the infection itself. The “crimson joy” of the rose connotes both sexual pleasure and shame, thus joining the two concepts in a way that Blake thought was perverted and unhealthy. The rose’s joyful attitude toward love is tainted by the aura of shame and secrecy that our culture attaches to love.

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The sick rose

by slowpulsegirl, September 11, 2012

By "rose" W.Blake could also mean his heart,and the worm could be some thoughts he has regarding a lover that is a temptation for him.His love for this person is secret,and he has thoughts about her when he is alone in his bed at night.The fact that from what we see this love is single sided slowly kills the speaker's heart and life.

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notation

by naddoushe, February 09, 2013

hi,please can someone help me how to find te figure of speech in the peom amd its metaphores?

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2 out of 6 people found this helpful

Blake

by grmurray, June 13, 2013

An important feature to note reading any poem within Songs of Innocence and Experience is that it allows the marginalized figures of society a voice. A voice in which their story can be told. Innocence would seem to the be the more controlled,ignorant perception of the truth. Whereas Experience breaks down Songs of Innocence and shows the real horror of the situation.

Blake does this brilliantly by the use of contrast and it is when the 'sister poem' in Songs of Experience is read and that voice of the truth comes through - it forces... Read more

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