I believe this week’s entry is going to be inspired by some insights that I have formed as part of the Blakean discussion that is currently taking place. And I shall begin by introducing “The Sick Rose” as interpreted by a budding short film maker in a clip from YouTube. Challenging my initial thoughts on the poem, this film offers an alternative reading to the poem which is based around the idea of a doomed relationship. The grand difference between our understandings however, is the fact that the film takes the standpoint that although the love that these two figures feel is tainted, it is an eternal love that cannot be broken or measured. I personally got the impression that the love that Blake is describing is rather fatal and that there is no hope because the couple is destined for failure.
On first reading I noted that the whole poem consists of only 34 words and 29 of these are single syllabic which gives the impression of a nursery rhyme. We all know that nursery rhymes can have disturbing subject matters (for example “rock a bye baby” and “ring around the rosey”) and, to me, this poem is no different. Whilst the diction is quite simple and easy to understand (such as 'night" and "storm"), the words have many associations. Take for instance "night". Not only is it a word that is used often in Blakean poetry but one that has connotations of darkness, sleep, sex, ignorance, danger, etc. In contrast (or maybe not??) is representation of the 'rose' - a symbol of love, passion, life, joy, femininity and beauty. The colour of the rose is "crimson" which has associations with blood, sin or passion. Furthermore, the word "bed", in context, has inklings of sexual desire also. What becomes interesting is that whilst all these mentioned symbols are stagnant, the "worm" is contrasted by its active movement, which comes across as villainous. It is "invisible", "dark", "secret" and "destroys." The worm travels under the cloak of darkness which suggests its evil nature and while it "loves" the rose, it is entirely destructive.
If we put these understandings together, we can assume that the rose stands for beauty and innocence whilst the worm signifies corruption and decay - perhaps Blake is making the comment that all beauty will eventually grow rotten? It may be also saying something about society's view towards love and the consequent shame and secrecy that is attached to uncommitted passion in general. This is supported by its very root in the "Songs of Experience" which are typically characterised by the idea of innocence becoming ruined.