We know from the get-go that this poem is about a "sick rose." But why is the rose sick? The poem is concerned with this question, and refuses to give an answer. It starts by telling us the rose is sick, and the second stanza suggests that the worm might be the cause of this sickness. The speaker never really tells us what exactly is happening so we are left wondering whether or not the worm maliciously infects the rose.
- Line 1: The speaker tells the rose that it is sick. The form of address—"O rose"—is called an apostrophe.
- Lines 7-8: The speaker describes how the worm destroys the rose with his "dark secret love." The way in which the worm penetrates the "bed of crimson joy" suggests that he is infecting the rose.