A Critical Interpretation of William Blake's The Sick Rose.
I am convinced that this poem was written as a stab at the homosexual community of London in an effort to persuade those who transgressed, against the theological norms of Blake's mindset, into repentance of their iniquities. The author begins the poem in a pitiful, judgmental tone, paralleling his subject with an ill flower, hence the title. Blake uses the rose, which has historically signified femininity, to provide the reader with a sense of the homosexual's frail, feminine nature. The "invisible worm that flies by night", is a bold reference to the turbulent penis of the sick rose, whose debauched behaviors are performed as surreptitiously as possible amidst passionate caterwauling. "Thy bed of crimson joy" is indicative of the bloody berth upon which acts of unnatural love are expressed in an atypical sexual relationship. The shedding of blood further illustrates a significant theological concept that no doubt Blake was trying to convey; the outpour of lifeblood has been the foremost repercussion of sin from its origin in Eden, to its dissolution on the cross of Nazareth. The use of symbolism in this poem seems less metaphoric than it does discernible. Blake uses the words invisible, night, and secret, evenly throughout the poem so as not to leave the reader with any question as to the private nature of homosexual behavior in the time and place during which it was written. It may have been aberrant for the author to have been any more forward in symbolizing such matters. The purpose of the symbol "howling storm" finds its thematic significance not only in how it conveys the discord of such a lifestyle, but also in that it provides both a mental and an auditory image of the sense of fulfillment and release in having submitted to the wiles of temptation. .
It was Blake's strong religious convictions and social concerns that fueled the spirit of "The Sick Rose", as well as much of his other work which include both poetry and artwork, having illustrated 21 scenes from the Book of Job.