My Pretty Rose-Tree - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Spring, photo by Anita Martinz, available through Creative CommonsFlower - The unnamed flower blooms in May, the month that represents Spring and, therefore, new life and fertility. It can also be seen as an image of virginity (as in the archaic phrase that a girl is ‘deflowered' by her first sexual encounter). The namelessness of the flower may also suggest its lack of self-consciousness and, therefore, its capacity for self-forgetful love, in contrast to the rose-tree. To be named is to have an identity, with the possibility of turning this into a possession which one is unwilling to share or give.

Rose-tree – The rose is a literary symbol of love, especially sexual love. It is also linked with mortality, a sign of the transience of human love and beauty. It therefore links sex and death. This is appropriate since it seems to represent jealous, possessive love which cannot be life-giving, standing in contrast to the flower.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • Compare the flower / rose imagery here to its use in other Blake poems.


The effects of the Fall

Human relationships are affected by fallen divided selfhood which sees itself at the centre of its world as something to be protected and defended. Its pleasures must be jealously defended and denied to others. One chief pleasure is exerting control over others, which can often masquerade as showing protective love. Jealousy and possessiveness characterise this distortion of love.

Investigating themes

  • Compare this poem with The Angel. What similarities do you find?
  • The phrase ‘by day and by night' also appears in A Poison Tree and The Angel
    • How do the associations of those poems affect the reader's understanding of My Pretty Rose Tree?
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