From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


Symbol Analysis

The poem is called "The Sick Rose" so it's no surprise that nature figures prominently into it. But this poem isn't just about a dying flower. It's about a weird, almost magical worm—it can fly after all—that destroys the flower. Sure we all know about the circle of life and how bugs eat plants etc., but there's something more sinister about that story in this poem.

  • Line 1: The speaker addresses the rose and says that it is sick. The form of address—"O rose"—is called an apostrophe.
  • Line 2: The speaker introduces the "invisible worm." The worm probably isn't literally invisible, but might be in some kind of stealth mode. It might blend in with the surroundings like a chameleon, or it could just be too small to be seen. "Invisible" might be a metaphor for the worm's quiet act of destruction.
  • Line 4: The speaker mentions a "howling storm," which gives the poem a more ominous tone. "Howling" reminds us of dogs or wolves; the sounds of those animals are here a metaphor for the storm.
  • Line 5: "Bed" might refer to a plot of ground in which the rose is growing, or even the rose's petals. In the first case, it's not a literal bed with comforters and pillows, so it's a metaphor for the plot of ground. In the second case, it refers to a place where insects rest or sleep.
  • Lines 7-8: The speaker describes how the worm "destroys" (8) the rose with his "dark secret love." The worm might literally destroy the rose, but he most certainly doesn't have any "dark secret love"; attributing human characteristics ("love") to inhuman things (the worm) is called personification.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...