Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Roses in Blake

The Sick Rose by William Blake

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.

Roses are a pretty giant symbol in Western civilization. They have been a symbol of love and sexuality since ancient Greece. As the Western concept of romantic love developed through our stories, roses starting growing into our consciousness as representing aspects of love. Red roses became connected to passion and sexuality, while white roses became to represent innocence and virginity. We still make the same connections. We give roses to loved ones on Valentine's Day and a myriad of other holidays, a few of them seem to be made up by the Flower and Candy conglomerate (Sweetest Day, anyone?).

Blake seems to be making a point about our concept of Romantic Love. A sucker for symbollism, Blake must use the rose in this poem as a symbol. The rose is sick, he claims; maybe our view of romantic love doesn't work for us. Blake thought that prostitution was a result of our traditional monogomous relationships. STDs like siphilus were also quite a problem in Blake's day.

This poem has multiple levels and, thus, can be intrepeted in multiple ways. I believe the poem is Blake's commentary on modern love. Blake noticed problems that he attributed to romantic love: prostitution, STDs, and unwanted children. In "The Sick Rose," he takes a classic symbol of Romantic love and parodies it. He says the rose is dieing.


1 comment:

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