My Pretty Rose Tree: by William Blake - Summary & Analysis

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My Pretty Rose Tree

A flower was offered to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said ‘‘I’ve a pretty rose tree,’’
And I passed the sweet flower o’er.

Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.

Summary and Analysis


      Obviously, the occasion of this poem is autobiographical Blake rejected the love of an attractive woman and he told about it to his wile. Though he told the truth and thus proved to be faithful and sincere, it produced hostility in his wife's heart. Therefore, this poem refers to an isolated incident of the poet's life.

The poem, 'My Pretty Rose Tree' is significant with regard to the hints and suggestions it provides us so as to understand one of the meanings of 'The Sick Rose.'
My Pretty Rose Tree


      The poem can be unmistakably termed as an allegory of the speaker's domestic crisis in which love is offered to him by a pretty woman. Instead of responding he rejects it nobly because he has wife. But when his wife comes to know of his virtuous deed, she misunderstands and is offended out of sexual jealousy. Fidelity and straightforwardness are proved futile as well as inestimable. Actually, the main drawback of the poem is that the subject matter, which is an isolated incident of the poet's life, propounds no serious message to the reader except that virtue is unrewarded. "The Clod and the Pebble' is the mouthpiece of two insignificant things; but the grand idea is embroidered and interwoven with excellent symbolism. There the poet does not just refer to an isolated incident as in this poem. Perhaps the poem, 'My Pretty Rose Tree' is significant with regard to the hints and suggestions it provides us so as to understand one of the meanings of 'The Sick Rose.' However, the 'jealousy' of (Line 7) indicates the tyrannous possessiveness of Urizen which Blake describes as a characteristic feature of love (especially women's love).

Angles of Vision:

      The poem has been effectively interpreted in some other ways also. One interpretation (of Thomas Wright, Blake's early biographer) says that the poet is very much attracted by a flower but he checks his uneasy mind. He tells himself that he has got as pretty a wife as the woman he has seen. He also thinks of the scandal that may be spread on account of his mistake, so he keeps away from the girl. When his wife comes to know of this she turns jealous and though the thorns of her jealousy are there, it gives him pleasure because they excuse his inclination for another girl.

      Another critic says that the poem is not about virtue unrewarded, nor has it anything to do either with morality or policy. It is only with regard to some contextual reference that virtue becomes meaningful to Blake. For example, Blake says in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "No virtue can exist without breaking these ten command ments. Jesus was all virtue and acted from impulses, not from rules. In 'My Pretty Rose Tree' the speaker acts from rules when he rejects the offer of a sweet flower." This rule is the social taboo instructing one not to love someone else when he has got a wife of his own. But Blake does not acknowledge this traditional dogma. For he says:

"He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy:

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity's sun-rise."

      The speaker in 'My Pretty Rose Tree' binds himself to his wife. Again, the flower that offers love to him can be extende d to another implication. It is a chance for the speaker to accept it and rise (himself) to the sphere of innocence. But he refuses it. Some people may think that the speaker's attitude is praiseworthy by all means. But for Blake marriage is a thralldom which debilitates the Speaker and prevents him from rising to the level of spiritual exaltation and tends to keep him confined within the four walls of worldly relations. Thus the speaker suppresses his desire and resigns himself to do his duty. But his devotion to his duty rewards him with the hostility and jealousy of his wife - the very reaction he tried to avoid by not responding positively to the offer of the girl. In either case the speaker loses what he desires to gain. It is in this way that Blake wants to show the triviality of the so-called 'rules'.

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