Themes and Message

Love as a destructive force

One of the themes explored by William Blake in the poem “The Sick Rose” is the theme of love as a destructive force. If we choose to see the rose and the worm as symbols of the feminine and the masculine, the entire poem is a metaphor for love. In this light, the poet’s idea is that love – which he associates with sickness – takes people by surprise. For example, the rose is unaware that it is sick and it is up to the speaker to reveal the truth: “O Rose thou art sick.” (l. 1). 

In the second stanza, the poem looks at the worm’s “dark secret love” (l. 7), an image that creates a sense of impending doom. The worm’s love kills the rose (l. 8) and can be associated with a destructive force. In this light, the poem suggests th...

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