The Sick Rose by William Blake

The Sick Rose by Willam Blake is a short but complex poem. Here are a few ways you might interpret it. Feel free to email us with more…

Sexual imagery:

“the invisible worm” has phallic connotations, the fact that it cannot be seen suggests that the owner is someone concealing it. We might suggest that the worm arrives without the woman’s consent.

“The howling storm” might symbolise an orgasm.

“Crimson joy” is suggestive of blood and perhaps a woman’s virginity. We might interpret the poem as being about intercourse, though it is darkly suggestive of an unwanted advancement and power divide through “thy life destroy”

Imagery of England:

A rose is symbolically an English flower. We might suggest that the “howling storm” is the roar of the industrial revolution and the “sick rose” is the disintegrating country which Blake once loved. The invisible worm might suggest the parasitic power of industry.

Sexual Disease in London

The symbol of destruction may be interpreted as a sexual disease, which may have been the result of prostitution. The vaginal symbolism of the flower has been corrupted by the penetration of the male. When Blake was living in London, there was a lot of poverty and prostitution, which likely led him to see England as “sick.” It is also likely that female sexuality was demonised, hence the idea that sex=death pervades this poem. 


Maria x


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