Comment on the symbolism in the poem The Sick Rose by William Blake

Rose is a conventional symbol of love and beauty. Poets through the ages have imagined the similarity between a beautiful girl and a sweet rose. Traditionally qualities and virtues like innocence purity and modesty are attached with the rose. In fact, rose exists as one of the most beautiful natural creations.

In the poem “The Sick Rose” the flower is infected by worms. Such an image of a worm is resonated with the biblical allusion of Satan taking the form of a perfect serpent and polluting the innocence of Adam and Eve. Worms are earthbound by their nature and they suggest decay and destruction. The bed into which the worm creeps is not only the flower bed but also denotes the bed of the lovers. So the rose becomes sick and so becomes love. The worm is also a symbol of male sexuality while the rose suggests feminine qualities.

The sickness of the rose comes partly from the insidious secrecy with which the worm gradually corrupts. The color crimson suggests that the rose has a strong sexual desire. But such the dark red color of the rose symbolizes the fact that momentary love can destroy the virtues. The phrase ‘dark secret love’ suggests feelings of jealousy and possessiveness. Such feelings destroy the innocence and purity of the soul. Thus the undermining suggestion of the sickness of the rose symbolizes the triumph of experience over innocence.

Also read: Summary and Critical analysis of the poem The Sick Rose