The Sick Rose by William Blake – Explanation and Words Note

The Sick Rose by William Blake – Explanation and Words Note

Introduction to the poem: The poem has been presented as the love that is destructive like a worm. The tragic tone of the love is the central part of the poem. The speaker of the poem is telling the destructive love by comparing the mystic and tragic love affair of the couple. One is compared with sick rose and another is compared with the destructive worm, which visits at the night time. The poet has attributed the high quality of the human world as male and female. So this poem is the poem of high sound of the human world with destructed life.

Word Notes and Critical Commentary:

• Rose is a Romantic symbol of love, innocence, beauty, purity, goodness and virtue etc.

• ‘Thou art sick’ – means the Rose is Sick. ( Thou – Rose )

The Rose is addressed in the first line – ‘O Rose thou art sick !’

• ‘The invisible worm’ – the worm can be the canker that undermines the rose. Worm is a symbol of the evil forces.

• ‘ That flies in the night, / In the howling storm,’ – [ night means evil ]

In fact there is no such worm as flying in the night or the howling storm. (What Blake is implying may be that comely and seemly objects of beauty are gradually destroyed or sapped by some unknown evil forces. )

• ‘Has found out they bed’ – thy means / refers to the Rose. Here ‘He’ means the worm.

• ‘Of crimson joy’ – Crimson means red.

‘Crimson joy’ suggests the effect of the worm on the rose and beauty. The worm is joyous to have possessed the rose. Its bite leads the flower to decay and death.

☆ The phrase ‘crimson joy’ signifies sexual pleasure too. But symbolically it implies the loss of innocence by experience. The rose, the symbol of beauty and purity, goodness and virtue, is destroyed by the worm, a symbol of the evil forces.

• ‘And his dark secret love’ – [ Here dark means experience ] Actually ‘dark secret love’ is a reference to experiences that destroy innocence, beauty, purity, goodness and virtue of objects.

☆ The worm’s love is vicious and its seduction has a destructive perennial effect on the Rose.

• ‘Does thy life destroy’ – [ ‘thy’ means your ( Rose) ] destroy your life.


☆ Both good and virtues are indicated by the number of words in the poem.

☆ Evil is indicated by a number of words: sick, worm, night, howling storm, dark, secret, destroy. The worm stands for evil. It also connotes the ideas of lust, sin, destruction, corruption, and death.

☆ The worm is a mystery as it is described as “invisible”. It is engaged in secret activities: finding the bed, expressing dark and secret love.

☆ The rose stands for purity, innocence, beauty, ignorance, and so on. The innocent rose is ruined by an experienced worm.

☆ The rose is a thing of beauty, which is ruined by jealousy, and sexual passion of the worm.

☆ The rose is a symbol of love, which is destroyed by selfishness. A crimson rose has been entered, sickened, and destroyed by a worm.

☆ In The Sick Rose, the secrecy of love becomes a disease. The crimson joy’ suggests rose’s complicity both in passion and in secrecy. So the poet has compared sick love with sick rose.

☆ The love of a demon (worm) is nothing meaningful and hopeful rather it is mystic and tragic, painful and destructive.

■ 》 If the poem is looked through feminist perspective, the worm can be patriarchy.

■ Patriarchy is all-powerful and capable to destroy woman race.

■ The worm symbolically presents Biblical serpent and it is the symbol of corruption, moral degradation and it is something that is a destroyer and an exploiter.

■ The male worm and female rose have a Freudian significance. The worm is invisible, a hidden and repulsive thing. Scientifically speaking, there is no worm, which flies in the night and in howling storm.

■ We may say that it refers to the destruction of love by selfishness, of innocence by experience, of spiritual life by spiritual death.

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