The Debate Between the Roses “A Red,Red Rose” and “The Sick Rose”
Even with the passage of time, poetry still remains viable and capable in provoking those hidden images and feelings in the reader. The poems “A Red,Red Rose” by Robert Burns and William Blake's “The Sick Rose” have done just that. Both of these late 18th century poems elicited feelings and mindful images through the usage of figurative language. Each poet's figurative words provides impact that resonates throughout their poem, while at the same time composing a totally different meaning and feeling.
Robert Burns's poem “A Red, Red Rose” describes a Scottish man's devotion to a his “bonnie lass” (line 5, all pages references are to the class text, Norton Introduction to Literature, Portable Ed.) before he departs on a long trip. Burns skillfully uses the 'simile' element to produce his musical elegance with “O, my luve's like a red, red rose” (line 1). The simile “like a red, red rose” (line 1) and “As fair art thou”( line 5) makes a definitive picture of the speaker's lady. Another example of an explicit simile is the Scottish man's love for his lady “is like the melodie” (line 3). This poem is written in four stanzas. Each stanza has four lines with a rhyming characteristic throughout the poem. In each four line stanza, the last word in the second line rhymes with the last word in the fourth line. For an example: the word “June” (line 2) rhymes with the word “tune”(line 4); the word “I” (line 6) rhymes with “dry” (line 8) and so on throughout the poem. The poem also repeats “And I will luve thee still, my dear” (line 7 & 11) . This poem produces great rhythm and provides an up-lifting feeling. The last stanza brings closure with the image of the Scottish man embracing his “fair” (line 5 ) lady and kissing her goodbye, with the realization that “. . . [he] will come again, . . ” ( line 15), even if he has to trek thousand miles (line 16). (Norton Literature, pg 465, 481- 485, 465-471, 475-477, 501, 502, 2006)
In contrast to Burns's poem, Blake characterizes his poem, “The Sick Rose” as a “O rose, thou art sick” (line 1). Blake's poem takes on a darker description of the 'rose' by weaving in complex mystical metaphors, such as “The invisible worm / That flies in the night” (line 2-3) . Although words, such as '“worm” (line 2), “bed” (line 5 ) and “crimson joy” (line 6 ) “ have sexual connotations” (pg. 495), could it also be questioned why Blake's heavy use of metaphors possibly begs for another interpretation? Maybe Blake intentionally wanted to push the reader to take a closer look in what he wanted to convey. Perhaps the poem wants to indicate a more private symbol of deceit, destruction or betrayal in one's relationship or possible social issues that cause the symbolic 'rose' to become sick. As in “A Red, Red, Rose”, this poem also brings to life its own sound to the reader. “In the howling storm” (line 4) brings forth a dramatic sound to the reader's imagination, such as the sound of howling wolves, which may represent loneliness or even the sound of anger. The last stanza grips the concept of deceit and betrayal of the “. . . dark secret love / Does thy life destroy” ( line 7-8 ); thereby finalizes the 'rose' wellbeing to a withering state of sadness. (Norton Literature, pg 465, 467, 468, 469, 475, 476, 477, 481-485, 490-496, 501, 502, 2006)
The comparison between the poems “A Red, Red Rose” and “The Sick Rose” is like comparing the 'light of day' to the 'dark of night'. Both poems used strong figurative language in order to give impact to their meaning. The 'rose' becomes a symbolic entity that exposes 'beauty', 'love', 'happiness', 'deceit' or 'sadness'. The reader can conclude that the 'rose' is truly significant. It has made its mark on mankind that has engender centuries of artistic expressions just like in the poem “A Red, Red Rose”
“ . . . I will come again, my luve” (line 15).
Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). Burns, Robert "A Red, Red Rose" The Norton
Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pg 484) Indianapolis, IA: North, Inc.
Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). Blake, William "A Sick Rose"
The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pg 495) Indianapolis, IA:
Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). Chapter 11
The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pg 465-496) Indianapolis, IA:
Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). Chapter 12
The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pg 501-502) Indianapolis, IA: