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"In William Blake’s The Sick Rose poem, he uses the traditional symbol of the rose in an unconventional way. Generally used to signify passion and romantic love, Blake uses it in this poem to show the destructive power of a selfish love. The rose is a symbol of love, but is also susceptible to the damage caused by it. "
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.
its not for me, but for a friend. She cant figure out the poem. Anyone want to give their 2 cents?
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English class of SIX YEARS AGO!!! I remember studying this shit.... damnit. I could be off on this....
I remember that we looked carefully at the symbolism in the first stanza: "...invisible worm, ..that files in the night...." It may not neccessarily mean that an actual worm FLIES but that a worm that digs it's way around earth, and that one (not that one = worm) that dares to fly at night in a storm showing heroism/stupidity.
Second stanza...hmm... "has found out thy bed" this does seem like a lover's realm from what witeshark mentioned.... but, of crimson joy....Crimson, red, heart, love.... joy=happiness.
"And his dark secret love...." Betrayal....
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First of all, let me introduce myself. In real life I'm an English
teacher. I've taught Blake to students several times, and every time I
get a different perspective on this poem. It's the most frustrating,
and yet the most exciting poem I know. When I was a student myself I
remember puzzling over it for hours, trying to 'solve' the poem as
though it were a crossword puzzle.
The trouble is, there's no right answer to the question "what is this
poem talking about?". To put it another way: there are many right
answers. What I'd like to do is go through my own thoughts on the
poem, then point you towards some different interpretations online.
However, what I'd like to do - after all, I'm a teacher - is to try
and give you pointers towards finding *your own* interpretation of the
First of all: the language of the poem. Blake has used thirty-four
words in 'The Sick Rose'. Twenty-nine of these are single syllables.
The effect of this is to make the poem seem very simple - it has a
nursery rhyme quality, almost.
The vocabulary of the poem is also very simple. Blake has chosen to
use basic words like 'storm' and 'night' - words which have simple
meanings but also many associations. Think of all the things you
associate with the word 'night', for instance: darkness, sleep,
dreams, sex, and so on. The key to working out an interpretation of
the poem is to look at the associations of the words. As you read it,
think about and jot down what the words mean to you.
What is the rose? There are positive words associated with it: 'life'
and 'joy'. Roses are symbols of love, of femininity, of beauty, of
sexuality. The rose is also 'crimson', a very deep red which could
suggest passion, or blood, or sin (as in 'scarlet woman'). It also has
a 'bed' - again, this could have sexual associations, or it could
suggest being 'rooted' and passive.
The worm, by contrast, is active and seems entirely negative. It is
'invisible', 'dark', 'secret'; it 'finds out' and 'destroys'. The worm
is sneaky - already invisible, it travels under the cover of darkness.
It 'loves' the rose, yet its love is completely destructive.
Blake is inviting us to see the rose and the worm as symbols - they
must 'stand for' something - but it is hard to know for certain what
that something is. A common interpretation is that the rose represents
beauty and innocence and the worm represents corruption and decay -
all beauty must inevitably grow rotten. The collection of poems in
which 'The Sick Rose' appeared, 'Songs of Experience', is full of
images of innocence becoming corrupted and ruined. Alternatively, a
feminist might see the rose as symbolising a woman and the worm a man,
which destroys the rose's life with his oppressive 'love'. A religious
reading might see the worm as being a close relative of the serpent in
the Garden of Eden, corrupting the innocent beauty of humanity with
Any interpretation, though, will look at the use of opposites in the
poem. The worm and the rose are opposites - the worm is invisible,
fast-moving, destructive; the rose is crimson, static, and joyful.
They are in conflict; as a result, the rose ends up being slowly
I hope I've given you a key to understanding how this poem works, but
if I haven't been clear enough, please ask for further clarification.
Here are some sites you should find useful for further study: