Tuesday, August 3, 2010

To the Blown Rose . . .

For being such a short poem "The Sick Rose" has endured unending speculation and interpretation since it was first published in 1794, in Blake's collection titled 'Songs of Experience'.

One blogger suggested that, "He's talking about how having lust for someone and not love can be completely destroying. Having just sex with someone is hard because feelings always get involved and it's hard to keep them under control, but if the other person doesn't love you back its obviously going to be heartbreaking." One even goes as far as, "The love would be between two people and the woman became pregnant and because of that he leaves her. She is sick because the baby she now has, and it destroys her life".

Here's the way one student suggests breaking down the poem.
The rose is a beautiful woman
The worm is an evil man
They fall in love
Their love is strong
He worships her
She doesn't love him
He goes mad
She dies

I'm putting these suggestions here for purposes of comparison. I have no idea how anyone got the 'break down' given above. I haven't found "He worships her and she doesn't love him, he goes mad, she dies" in the words to the poem even when I stretch my thinker. I believe that there is a lot of projection going on. Still others believe that the 'Rose' represents England and the 'Worm' the corruption of church and state which are spoiling the country.

There is much speculation that the 'Rose' represents the female and the 'Worm' represents the male. This notion falls closer to what I was taught when first introduced to the poem, that it is the story of a girl losing her virginity. The 'worm' is invisible because it is like 'the elephant in the room', it's something we don't talk about in polite company. It 'flies in the night' because that's when people generally get naked together and the 'worm' let out of it's cage, so to speak. The "howling storm" represents the passion of lovemaking. What's destroyed, by his "dark secret love", is her innocents. Nobody goes mad, nobody dies.

It is such a short work that it will be forever left to the reader to interpret. If he had given us one more stanza, the meaning might have been more obvious. But then, we might not still be talking about it two hundred years later. I hope you enjoy "The Sick Rose" by William Blake.

The Sick Rose

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.

This blog title comes from 'Antony and Cleopatra' by Wm. Shakespeare, "To the blown rose they stop their nose, who knelt unto the bud."

1 comment:

  1. Why not add a link to William Blake? The default is Wikipedia - no shame there. Even better would be some poetry site with a bio of the old boy.

    You will get readers...