Publication: The Sick Rose is one of the finest poems found in Songs of Experience. It was published in 1794.
Sequel to The Blossom: The Sick Rose is a sequel to The Blossom in Songs of Innocence. In the poem, The Blossom, innocence is celebrated through a picture of the life of Nature that consists of a blossom, a sparrow, a robin and green leaves. The Sick Rose exposes the process which corrupts the innocence portrayed in The Blossom.
Theme: The Sick Rose presents the dangerous consequence of repressed sexuality. Set in the fallen world of experience, the poem develops the theme of fall from a state of innocence. It shows how the secrecy and shame associated with the conventional morality of sexuality make love itself sick. Real love itself cannot destroy the life of the rose. It is the secrecy associated with love that destroys its innocence. Illicit love makes the rose sick. The worm is the traditional symbol of male sex. It undermines the rose.
Innocence and Experience: In Blake, innocence is the state of happiness of childhood. This state is protected by the Heavenly Father or God. A little lamb, a little child and Jesus symbolize innocence. Experience is the process that corrupts innocence. Experience destroys the state of childlike innocence.
Vision and Empathy: The poem is a fine example of Blake’s vision and empathy.