'O' Rose Thou Art Sick': Floral Symbolism in William Blake's Poetry


  • Noelia Malla Complutense University of Madrid




William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, “The Sick Rose”, floral imagery


The primary aim of this paper is to analyse the symbolic implications of floral imagery in William Blake’s poetry. More specifically, this study explores the process of floral (re)signification of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) as case studies. Since “Without contraries [there] is no progression” (Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 3), it can be argued that the Songs represent contrary aspects of the human condition that far from contradicting each other, establish a static contrast of shifting tensions and revaluation of the flower-image not only as a perfect symbol of the “vegetable” life rooted to the Earth but also as a figure longing to be free. In some sense at some level, the poetic-prophetic voice asserts in the Songs of Experience the state of corruption where man has fallen into. Ultimately, this study will explore how the failure to overcome the contrast that is suggested in the Songs will be deepened by the tragedy of Thel, which is symbolized by all unborn forces of life, all sterile seeds as an ultimate means of metaphorical regeneration throughout Poetry which constitutes in itself the Poet Prophet’s own means of transcending through art.

Author Biography

  • Noelia Malla, Complutense University of Madrid
    English Department II


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