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The Sick Rose(1794)

William Blake

O Rose, thou art sick!
MeterO Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
MeterThe invisible worm
That flies in the night
MeterThat flies in the night
In the howling storm
MeterIn the howling storm

Has found out thy bed
MeterHas found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
MeterOf crimson joy,

Note on line 6: Everybody feels the sexiness of this line. Its creamy iambs are sweeter still to an ear that has been hearing the meter of Blake’s song anapestically. (To scan it as iambic is to find more lines metrically abnormal than normal, which seems like looking for trouble in a poem that is already plenty strange.) Riding an anapestic meter, “crimson” tends to ripple towards “ca-rimson,” and the voiced “n” and “j” to feel a little like vowels.

And his dark secret love
MeterAnd his dark secret love

Note on line 7: An admittedly vexing line. It won’t quite do to scan “secret love” as an anapest in conformity to the meter and claim, however ingeniously, that the worm’s secret is so well hidden that it flies under the prosodic radar. For one thing, “secret” is a bona fide adjective claiming proper stress for its accented on the first syllable. Then there’s its deep phonetic embroilment with the words just before it. Every consonantal mouth-shape in “secret” is anticipated in “his dark.” As a result, “secret love” defies the rapid pronunciation that goes with an anapestic line like line 3 from the first stanza. So what to do? Break the rules, and call the second half of this line an amphimacer, a foot so exotic ( / u / ) that we don’t even put it in the 4B4V Glossary.

Does thy life destroy.
MeterDoes thy life destroy.

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