Breath of Clarity

William Blake, The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose uses symbolic imagery to articulate an artist’s experience with depression. The “O” is used to show compassion for the sufferer and the speaker is asking for mercy from a higher power. The “rose” is a beautiful loving symbol that can only be beautiful in its tip shape position. If a rose is sick it’s a person who feels lack of love, alone and isolated. This is indicative that the poem is about depression. The diction that the speaker uses to communicate the distressed state of the individual, “thou art sick!” shows that the type of sick is emotional sickness that an artist may experience. It essentially introduces that the problem is an emotional issue. The exclamation point shows that the sickness is in need of attention, which eventually can destroy death. It indicates the need to take care of the issue before it becomes too overwhelming to manage.

The parasite of the disease is the next concept introduced in the form of an “invisible worm”. The invisible quality of the worm describes that often the sickness cannot be figured out explicitly where it can be detected and therefore taken out. The “invisible” quality also explains the way that it’s difficult to be understood by others.

Since the worm “flies,” it cannot be caught. It’s chaotic and wild and uncontrollable. It flies “in the night,” which is a dark time. The lack of light suggests that the depressive sentiments come in tough circumstances. The “night” also occurs in the late hours when an individual may be tired, not in the best mental shape. The “howling,” describes the “storm” which is meant to present the worm’s habitat. The storm is an image of the individual’s entire mind. The collection of thoughts is howling, crying for some sort of liberation and sense of organization in the chaotic storm.

The poem is separated into two stanzas to distinguish between the inevitable aspect of the mental disease and the extension of the misery that is in the individual’s control. The end of the poem illustrates that the worm didn’t necessarily destroy the rose. Rather, it was the “secret love” of the comfortable feeling of being low that destroyed the rose’s life.

The word “thy” implies possession, a sense of control that the rose contains. The “bed” represents comfort of this type of “crimson joy” that the individual feels. The specific “crimson” color is a dark red, burgundy image. At first, the colon after the word “joy” indicates that the following lines will be used to elaborate on the definition of the term. Except, when the word “and” is used, it suggests that the following lines will be used to show the effect of the joy. This is where the audience can tell that it is the choice to extend the deep sadness that kills the individual, not the disease itself. Crimson is an adjective meant to describe the type of joy that the rose feels. It’s dark and deep. It’s the “secret love” that the rose feels in its misery. It’s a specific definition of joy, where the sickness is the foundation, but not necessarily the cause.

Blake’s piece is a prime example of the way that symbolism can be used to articulate phenomenon that is difficult to convey explicitly. The analysis of this poem was based recognition of symbolism. The symbolism can be found by examining the qualities of each word used.