AD's English Literature : Critical Analysis of William Blake's O Rose Thou art Sick or The Sick Rose

Critical Analysis of William Blake's O Rose Thou art Sick or The Sick Rose

Blake's readers  are more open to the influence of big ideas. Blake’s poetry can store  with bits of philosophy on life, which will act as safeguards long after Blake are forgotten.  O Rose thou art sick or The Sick Rose has many valuable ideas to contemplate. In fact, in 1794 Blake published a companion to the Songs of Innocence called the Songs of Experience, which contains The Sick Rose. The Songs of Experience were never published without their counterpart, and the entire volume was called the Songs of Innocence and Experience: Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. The title couldn't be more descriptive. In general, the Songs of Innocence tend to be, well, more innocent, benign, and childish, whereas the Songs of Experience explore darker, more sinister themes associated with the Industrial Revolution, religion, and education. 



William Blake’s poetry is marked by simplicity, spontaneity, melody and moral earnestness. Joy, laughter, love and harmony are the other prevailing notes of his poetry. We also perceive in his work a strain of protest against tyranny and repression of all kinds and of plea for freedom in social, political, ecclesiastical, and intellectual fields. His lyrics reveal ‘variety and spontaneity of feeling which enable them to be compared with the best of those written in English literature. Historically also his position is quite important: ‘he defined reason in an age of rational philosophers and glorified intuition and imagination in an age of scientific skepticism’. Another 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 be the more controlled, ignorant perception of the truth. Whereas Experience breaks down Songs of Innocence and shows the real horror of the situation. Read More Poetry


  The Sick Rose by William Blake is a perfect lyrical poem. The subject matter is simply told. A rose is sick and destroyed by the evil design of a worm. By "rose" William 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. As the story goes, the poem starts with an impassioned address to the rose by the poet. He is deeply mortified to see the rose sick:

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

 The unseen worm, which flies in the deep darkness of the stormy night, creeps in it. The worm makes its bed in the rose. It starts to bite the rose. The flower bleeds. With every bite of the worm, drop of blood is shed. The lively rose sickens. Read More Poetry It does not know the danger it calls in by sheltering the worm. The worm thrives destroying the rose merrily. The rose gradually loses all its purity and beauty. Finally, the sickening rose meets death:

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

William Blake
But the poem has an underlying meaning. The sick rose and the joyous worm are two opposite aspects of life. One stands for innocence and the other for experience. The former is destroyed by the latter. In broad sense, they remind us of the Fall of Men. The poet uses imagery and symbol to correlate the two layers of meaning. The poem is also marked for its sound-rhythm, fineness of feelings and brevity. The expressions like ‘invisible worm’, ‘howling storm’, ‘crimson joy’, ‘secret love’ etc. are the perfect gems of poetry. The title is also significant. The word ‘sick’ reflects the theme of the poem. The poem has a rhyming scheme of abcb. As a whole, the poem is a typical one from the pen of Blake who keeps a mark of his poetic excellence in it.

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. Read More Poetry 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. 

On the other level, We can't help thinking The Sick Rose is just a bit like  gratuitous sex scenes and attempts to expand the boundaries of acceptability. While Blake's poem isn't about a super hot plastic surgeon that takes home a different woman every other night, it is interested in making sex and love more public, albeit in its own way. Read More Poetry The worm destroys the rose with his "dark secret love." We don't usually think of love as something that destroys things, but the poem suggests that a repressed love that is "dark" and "secret" – as opposed to "light" (whatever that would be) and public – does. So while this poem doesn't go over the top with risqué nude scenes, it does at least suggest the dangerous consequences of viewing sex and love as things to be kept "dark" and "secret."

  To make things clear, as a symbolic poem, The Sick Rose bears a deeper meaning. The rose stands for innocence, purity, love and beauty. The worm, on the other hand, is the symbol of experience, evil, jealousy and selfishness. The deadly bite of evil makes love sick. Innocence is destroyed by experience, beauty by jealousy. So was the case with Adam and Eve, the First Men. Their innocence and heavenly glories were spoiled by Satan’s evil devices.


Remember the Points/ Notes: 
1. Don't put a general estimate that  Blake thought of innocence and experience as contraries. Any attempts to classify innocence as good and experience as bad inevitably fail; sometimes the Songs of Innocence appear innocent and then end up being darker and more complicated upon closer examination.  


2. The poem isn't just about a sick rose and a flying worm, it's also about violence and sex, issues that we routinely encounter in movies or television shows depicting the darker side of human nature, society, and culture of anything today.


Ardhendu De

1 comment:

  1. this is really helpful to understand william blake's poetry. thank you

    ReplyDelete

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