Essay about Imperfection and Love in Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’ and H.D.’s ‘Sea Rose’

Essay about Imperfection and Love in Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’ and H.D.’s ‘Sea Rose’

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William Blake’s poem ‘The Sick Rose’ and H.D.’s poem ‘Sea Rose’ both deal with the imagery of a flawed rose, yet their imperfections arise from different origins. They share the same subject of the rose, make use of sonic elements of poetry and employ clear, descriptive language, however these components create a different tone and atmosphere in each poem. Blake’s poem addresses the rose and its relationship to the worm, establishing that the rose’s faults arise from this relationship. In contrast to this, H.D.’s poem examines the sea rose’s weakness with respect to the ordinary rose, yet these shortcomings of the rose are a product of nature rather then the rose’s own. While the poems observe the rose in different settings, they both study the deformities in what is considered a symbol of beauty and love, i.e. the rose.
The rose is common to both ‘The Sick Rose’ and ‘Sea Rose’ as a product of nature that has been turned into the subject of observation. However, this manner of observation, reflected in the tone used, varies for the two poems. Both poems make use of strong language and sounds to describe the rose. In Blake’s poem this harshness is present in the title ‘The Sick Rose’ and the first line of the poem ‘O Rose, thou art sick’ (1). The repetition of the words ‘sick’ and ‘rose’, which is incidentally the only repetition found throughout the poem, places a strong emphasis on the rose’s failing, on its ‘sickness’. The personal address with the use of ‘o’ and ‘thou’, amplifies this failing, as it establishes the speaker’s relationship to the rose, thus giving the declaration of the rose’s sickness greater weight coming from someone who knows the rose.
On the other hand, H.D.’s ‘Sea Rose’, while addressing the rose with ...

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...the challenges of its environment and as such is stronger than the traditional rose as a symbol of a faint, sweet love.
The use of harsh sonic language and repetition in both poems contribute to the representation of the flawed rose, the rose that is considered unfit as a symbol of ‘love’. Blake uses this image of his ‘sick rose’ to express his opinion that love in literature has been corrupted, as the worm corrupts the rose. On the other hand H.D. uses the flawed rose, the ‘sea rose’ as a more realistic representation of love, as opposed to the flawless traditional rose. Despite H.D. and Blake presenting differing themes relating to love in their poem, they both chose the symbol of the rose to broach the subject.

The Norton Anthology of Poetry, ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy, 5th edn (London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005)

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