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The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose


by William Blake

The Sick Rose Theme of Sex

While "The Sick Rose" doesn't come right out and say it, it's pretty obvious that it's a poem about sex, at least on some level. A worm penetrating a "bed of crimson joy" sure sounds a lot like sex, as does that strange little phrase "dark secret love." Overall, the vision of sex presented in this poem is dark and even violent.

Questions About Sex

  1. Do we have to read the poem as a meditation on sex? Are there other ways to read the poem?
  2. What does "dark secret love" really mean, in layman's terms?
  3. Sex in this poem seem dark, dangerous, and even violent. Why do you think Blake presented it that way?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Sick Rose" suggests that when sex and love are paired—when they become the same thing—destructive consequences ensue.

"The Sick Rose" suggests that sexuality should be public, rather than "secret."

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