My Pretty Rose Tree

William Blake

‘My Pretty Rose Tree’ by William Blake is a poem that represents the harshness that “jealousy” can bring to a relationship.

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William Blake

Nationality: England

William Blake was one of the greatest artistic and literary geniuses of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Notable works include 'The Tyger,' 'The Schoolboy,' 'The Lamb,' 'A Poison Tree,' and 'London.'

My Pretty Rose Tree by William Blake represents the harshness that “jealousy” can bring to a relationship in that, despite Blake’s commitment to his “rose tree,” that “rose tree” “turned” from him because of his previous encounter with the “flower.” Still, Blake continues to seek the affection of his “rose tree.” What this represents, overall, is that honest love can go punished and hurt if it is paired by a lack of trust, and this brief poem brings this idea into clear focus.

My Pretty Rose Tree
William Blake

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.
My Pretty Rose Tree by William Blake

My Pretty Rose Tree Analysis

First Stanza

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.

This is a stanza that showcases fidelity since Blake “was offered” “a flower,” but passed it up for the sake of his “pretty rose tree.”  The choice of wording for each of these plants notes a particular level of importance for each one. The representation of the source of his commitment is a complete “tree,” whereas the representation of the source of his temptation is just “a flower.” Although the “flower” was no doubt impressive, one “flower” could not compare to a “tree” of numerous “flower[s],” so in this, Blake has let the reader know that while the appeal was real toward the “flower,” there was no chance that anything would come of it since it was so small next to his “tree.”

There is still, however, positive commentary toward the “flower.” Specifically, it was “a flower as May never bore,” which indicates that the beauty of it was more striking than nature. “May,” after all, is a month that conjures images of plants in bloom under warm sunshine, so evidently this tempting “flower” was more appealing than lively ones. When applied to humans, what this means is that among all other temptations that were presented to Blake, this one was “prett[ier]” than the rest. As well, this “flower” was noted as “sweet.” Despite his being able to “pass” on the “flower,” he clearly had a high opinion of it.

The process itself as to how this situation came to be is important as well. Blake did not go looking for “a flower,” but “was offered” it. This represents his fidelity on its own because he was content with his “rose tree” enough to search for no other, and the notion that his initial reaction to this situation was to verbally refute it in favor of his “pretty rose tree” solidifies that notion. He was in no danger of straying, and the structure of the stanza represents this concept.

One further concept to mirror his fidelity is the rhyme scheme. It is a comfortable and routine ABAB, and Blake’s usage of it highlights his comfort and commitment to the “rose tree.” While his interest in the “flower” was real—shown in the switch from A to B rhymes—he would not stray from the “rose tree” any more than he would stray away from his rhyme scheme in general. In the end, like A and B repeat, he would always return to his “rose tree.”

Second Stanza

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.

Even though Blake gives no indication that he was ever seriously contemplating infidelity, the “rose” was upset and full of “jealousy” regarding the situation. In fact, she was so unhappy that she “turned away” from Blake when he went “[t]o tend her by day and by night.” What this indicates is that the “jealousy” did not just surface once. Rather, it occurred “by day and by night,” as an ongoing process that is not given an end time. Time moved forward with “her thorns [being his] only delight” from his “pretty rose tree.”

The question arises as to why the “rose tree” would react this way, given that Blake stayed committed in spite of the temptation of the “flower.” He even referenced his “pretty rose tree” in his reasoning as to why he did not accept the “offered” “flower.” It could be that the “rose tree” was offended that he only returned his attention to her after he finished conversing with the “flower,” which is indicated with the “[t]hen” that begins this stanza. In a small way, the “rose tree” was treated as secondary since only after conversing with the “flower” did Blake return to the “tree.” As it happens, the “rose tree” is pushed into a secondary position in the poem as well since it is only brought into the narrative beyond a reference point in the second stanza.

Now, rationally, the “rose tree” was never in second position because Blake quickly brushed the “flower” aside. This is, however, a commentary about the fragile nature of love that is unsteady because of “jealousy.” It did not fully matter that Blake was faithful. The notion that he acknowledged that the “flower” was lovely and fair was sufficient enough reason to cause the “rose tree” to grow upset.

This overall situation makes the “rose tree” a perfect representation of his love, and not only because of the earlier mentioned detail of how important the “tree” connection makes her seem. The “rose tree” was the representation of his truest affection, which is fitting since the “rose” itself represents beauty, elegance, and romance. The “rose,” however, does come with a “thorn,” and this is a perfect method of addressing the “jealousy” that harmed the relationship. This was his love’s flaw and the relationship’s danger, just as the “thorn” is the danger of the “rose.”

The irony is that this “thorn” is noted as Blake’s “only delight,” despite the damage and danger it caused the relationship. This speaks to the level of dedication for and admiration toward the “rose tree” by Blake. All he received was harshness after a staple of commitment, and he still labeled it a “delight,” as if being in the “rose tree[‘s]” presence was worth the scorn. He continued with the relationship, which is mirrored in the persistent rhyme scheme. Just as he clung to the shifting from A to B in his rhyme scheme, he would cling to the shifting steadiness of a relationship tainted with “jealousy” because he felt the “rose tree” was so worth it.

Overall, the juxtaposition of elements like a commitment to “jealousy” and beauty to danger represents the unsteady details of such an insecure relationship. Neither party was happy, but the relationship continued anyway in a “night” and “day” delivery of tension. In this, we see that “jealousy” can ruin what would have been wonderful and “pretty.”

About William Blake

Born in 1757, William Blake was an artist in more than one meaning of the word. In addition to being a writer, for instance, he was also an engraver. Blake’s poetry and works are known for their lyrical quality, but they also have strong political undertones, such as America that were published in 1793. He was an English artist who passed away in 1827.

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Connie Smith Poetry Expert
Connie L. Smith spends a decent amount of time with her mind wandering in fictional places. She reads too much, likes to bake, and might forever be sad that she doesn’t have fairy wings. She has her BA from Northern Kentucky University in Speech Communication and History (she doesn’t totally get the connection either), and her MA in English and Creative Writing. In addition, she freelances as a blogger for topics like sewing and running, with a little baking, gift-giving, and gardening having occasionally been thrown in the topic list.
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