The Sick Rose

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Reading Notes on William Blake¡¦s ¡§The Sick Rose¡¨

The rose and the invisible worm are the controlling metaphors that extend over the whole poem. They are so tightly built into the context of this poem that I cannot separate the metaphors or symbols from their structure to explain their meanings. I cannot summarize the main idea of this poem by paraphrases either, for under different circumstances, there might be different interpretations. On the surface level, the poem is about the invasion of an invisible worm that has destroyed the innocence of a rose. The worm ¡§has found out [the rose¡¦s] bed / of crimson joy¡¨ and dwells in the heart of the rose ever since. The worm is invisible, so his love is secret; it is harmful to the rose, so his love is dark, malicious. And gradually, the invisible worm¡¦s ¡§dark secret love¡¨ destroys and withers the rose. Although it is difficult to retell the meaning of the poem, my impressionistic response to the poem is strong. The lines are short. They are constructed mostly by words that have only one syllable. Take the first line, ¡§O rose, thou art sick.¡¨ for instance. The beats are short, and all the words are stressed. As a result, it prolongs the time needed to finish reciting the line. Most of the lines are written in this way, and the slow and strong rhythm does not only create a mysterious tone but also emphasizes the terrifying ideas. The style and the tone underline the impression of fear and disgust the poem aims to convey. I think the effect is overwhelming and powerful.
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