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Poems Comparison and Contrast: “Divorce” and “The Sick Rose”

Poems are recognized as one of the earliest literature forms that have significantly influenced the field of communication. Since pre-colonial times poems have been used to bring people together, warn, encourage and inform. One of the essential features of poems is their form and structure. While some poems lack a formal structure, most are structured to give the reader an easy flow and encourage involvement analysis. In the early days, the older people used poems to pass cultural practices to the young generation as well as hide their messages to prevent the unintended audience from grasping the message. There have been significant changes in poetry, with recent poems incorporating various rhetorical devices to encourage inquiry. This essay focuses on comparing and contrasting imagery and figures of speech used in two poems; Collins’ “Divorce” and Blake’s “The Sick Rose”, and their implication in poetry. Collins’ “Divorce” and Blake’s “The Sick Rose”, employ imagery, symbolism, and personification to portray the connection between love, transformation, and death.

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Both poems use symbolism to prompt the reader’s deep inquiry and interpretation of the messages. Blake’s “The Sick Rose” is entirely symbolic; he uses symbolism right from the title to the end of the poem. There are three primary symbols used in the poem; the rose, the bed, and the worms. In contrast to metaphors, symbols do not offer a direct comparison between two entities. It is upon the reader to interpret the message and understand what the symbols refer to.

At first glance, one captures the symbolism of the title “Sick Rose”. Roses represent love and affection; they brighten dark hearts and bind people together. When Blake uses the expression “Sick Rose”, they first give the impression of broken love. He uses symbolism in the title to reveal the poem’s meaning and call for the reader’s attention. Similarly, Collins, in his poem “Divorce”, uses symbolism to imply lost love. The main symbols used are the spoons, knives, forks, and the table. “Divorce” can be described as an aphoristic poem whose meaning is almost indecipherable without deep analysis. Similar to Blake, Collins does not indicate what the symbols represent, leaving the author to rely on their literal and rhetorical analysis.

Both poems use different symbols to represent the same theme; the unexpected end of love. Collins and Blake apply personification by giving human characters to their objects. Many poets use personification to create an image of life in non-living subjects. In Collins’ poem “Divorce”, the knives are personified in addition to being metaphorical. The line “and the knives they have hired” reveals that the knives are given the human laborer characteristics (Collins 742 line 4). They can be hired just as casual or permanent employees. A hired laborer is expected to follow the rules set by their employer. In this poem, Collins gives the idea that the knives are made to accomplish someone’s will and not what they would do under normal circumstances. The knives are used to cut or terminate the connection that existed between the spoons.

Similarly, Blake uses personification in the poem “Sick Rose” in reference to the rose and the storm. He seems to be addressing the rose and raises the question, “Does thy love destroy?” (Blake 889 line 8). This question comes after describing the work as having a dark secret love for the rose. He gives the worm human characteristics of love, secrecy, and destruction. They provide a connection between love and conflict that results in separation and death. He also describes the storm as howling, a characteristic of wolves. This personification is used to portray how tragically love is terminated.

The main difference between Collins’ “Divorce” and Blake’s “Sick Rose” is their approach to the subject matter and the persona. In “Sick Rose”, Blake addresses the rose directly, addressing the events surrounding the death of their love. The direct address gives the impression of a person’s involvement in the circumstances described. It seems as if the persona was a third party observing as the events occurred in real-time. Blake’s description of the tragic end of Rose’s love is a clear indication that the worm killed the love. However, I feel that Blake was inviting the question of the root cause of the love’s end. The death of love could be caused by the worm’s dark secret love or other factors.

Love is supposed to unite people and give life instead of taking it away. In contrast, in his poem “Divorce”, Collins narrates the story of love’s tragic end from a third-person perspective. They play the role of a friend or third party who learned about the love’s end but was not personally involved. The transition from spoons to tined forks gives the image of personal transitions that eliminate connection and invite coldness. Both poems describe the theme of love and separation by applying figures of speech that give the reader a feeling of involvement and encourage inquiry. Imagery, symbolism, and personification are the primary devices employed by the poets to stylistically pass their message.

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Works Cited

Blake, William. “The Sick Rose.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Mays, Kelly, 2018, pp. 889.

Collins, Billy. “Divorce.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Mays, Kelly, 2018, pp. 742.

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