The Sick Rose
"The Sick Rose" is a poem by William Blake. The first publication was in 1794, when it was included in his collection titled Songs of Experience as the 39th plate. The incipit of the poem is O Rose thou art sick. Blake composed the page sometime after 1789, and presents it with the illuminated border and illustrations that were typical of his self publications. Most aspects of the original production were undertaken by the author, the composition of the poem and design, engraving, and promotion of the work. The printing was usually done by Blake's wife, Catherine, as well as any colouring not performed by Blake himself.
Text of the poem
The text has been republished in typeset many times, with slight variations, and is usually included in collections of the author's work. As with many of Blake's 'songs', such as "The Tyger", the verse is contained in numerous anthologies of English poetry. A transcription of the original manuscript is:
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.
Note by Andy Leader, North Middlesex, Vermont: "The Sick Rose" clearly references the syphilis epidemic rampant in England at the time the poem was written. Much nonsense has been published purportedly elucidating a metaphysical interpretation involving religious imagery, etc. However, the meaning is on the surface for those who would see it. This brilliant and chilling poem can easily be used to also reference the current AIDS epidemic.
- Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and of Experience, copy AA, 1826 (The Fitzwilliam Museum) published by the The William Blake Archive. Ed. Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi. Accessed: 16 October 2009
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