Ah! Sunflower - Language, tone and structure

Language and tone

The first stanza of this poem sounds very positive about the sun-flower's desire. The ‘sweet golden clime' appears an appealing destination. The idea of the ‘weary' flower seeking where the ‘traveller's journey is done' sounds attractive and the ‘Ah!' conveys the speaker's sympathy for the sunflower's hopes.

  • According to how you read the poem, this positive tone continues, if the ‘sweet golden clime' is the place where the youth and virgin ‘Arise from their grave' and regain their desires (‘aspire'), which is what the sunflower wishes for.
  • Alternatively, the youth and virgin are already in the ‘golden clime' / heaven, but it is a place of denial and lifelessness. This is conveyed by phrases such as: ‘pined away', ‘pale', ‘shrouded in snow'.

Blake asks the reader to question the nature of the ‘sweet golden clime' to which the sunflower aspires. Is desire for heaven associated with those who have failed to live?

Investigating language and tone

  • Explore the connotations of:
    • ‘sweet golden clime'
    • ‘pale virgin shrouded in snow'

Structure and versification

The metre of the poem is basically anapaestic, which creates an energetic, jaunty rhythm. However, the opening spondee slows the pace, while the trochaic foot which starts l.3 makes the sunflower's quest more urgent. The negative content of the second stanza also counterpoints the pace of the anapaestic feet. It underlines the possible contrast between the conventional idea that the promise of eternal life brings joy, with the reality which the poem conveys.

Investigating structure and versification

  • In two columns, list those elements of the poem's composition which support a positive and / or negative interpretation about life beyond death.
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