O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
About this poem
Introduced by a variety of writers, artists and other guests, the Scottish Poetry Library’s classic poem selections are a reminder of wonderful poems to rediscover.
Michael Bowdidge on 'The Sick Rose':
This is a poem that I never tire of re-reading.
For me its strength lies in the tension between a very simple (and seemingly almost contemporary) construction and a richness of associations that make it very hard to pin down.
The language is direct, engaging and visceral, and when the historical, political and social context in which it was written is taken into account, it seems that more than a few allegorical interpretations are possible. However, to Blake's credit, the poem refuses any kind of obvious resolution of its imagery, and simply persists as a subtle, significant and incredibly elegant work of art.
As an artist, for me this poem is an object lesson in creative economy, as this is exactly the quality of simple yet meaningful and many-layered ambiguity that I aspire to in my own making.
Michael Bowdidge is an artist who lives and works in Edinburgh. He has shown nationally and internationally over the past 20 years.