In this assignment I will gracefully compare and contrast two short poems. In my selection for the poems, I kept in mind that the two poems needed to have something in common metaphorically or thematically. After many hours of browsing I came upon two poems that contained an ultimately strange connection metaphorically and in content. Interestingly, the two also had numerous differences. The first poem I encountered was “The Sick Rose” written by William Blake in 1794. Soon after, I read “Fog” (1916) by Carl Sandburg and I began to notice an exciting connection filled with various exceptions of chief differences. Although the poems were written more than a century apart from each other, after rereading them numerous times, they left me with an unimaginable amount of thinking and writing ground.
The two poems “The Sick Rose” and “Fog” are very much alike in the sense that they both use the introduction of weather and animals to shape the poem and give the reader a sense of displeasure. In “The Sick Rose” the poet introduces a worm and storm and in “Fog” the poet uses the fog and a cat. The subject matter is perhaps similar in these two poems with the fact that both poems embody foul weather that prevent life from flowing in its normal path. To be more specific, a storm destroys plants, animals, and life in general, while a fog blocks out the sun and its energy to spring life.
In “Fog” the poet, Carl Sandburg, uses the weather condition of a fog as the main subject matter for his poem. The entire poem is literally focused on the fog above the city and harbor. Using a metaphor, Sandburg makes the fog come to life as if it actually had its own eyes to be able to overlook the city. The fog takes the shape of a cat as it “sits looking over harbor and city” (570). Like a cat, the fog sits on silent haunches. Personally, Sandburg’s words created a mental picture of a black/grayish, dirty, street cat wandering silently in the alleys of an industrious city observing the streets on top of a half-century old brick building. This engaging metaphor is what makes the fog come to life and also creates its consciousness of the harbor and city that it overlooks. Although the metaphor is being used to show a similarity in the two poems, it will be most significant later on in our discussion in showing the main differences between the two poems.
Similarly, in William Blake’s “The Sick Rose” the weather also has a great affect on the poem. The poet, William Blake, introduces a storm that comes in the night carrying an invisible worm. Blake’s use of the word “howling” to describe the storm also gives life to the driving tempest. Although not many words are used to describe the storm, the storm, like the fog, is perhaps very much alive and conscious of its existence.
But a more important similarity than the nature and personality of the weather conditions used in each poem is their role. Both poems’ use of foul weather conditions inflict an undesired sense of darkness and sickness. My impression of “The Sick Rose” because of the storm is of darkness, sickness, and death. Unfortunately, something so beautiful and delicate like a rose had to destroyed by the storm and its invisible worm. Similarly, “Fog” gave me a sense of nausea, dirty streets, smoke, and grayish darkness. Thus in my opinion, the general subject matter of the poems are linked by the fact that they both give the reader a sense of displeasure. We would all have to agree that most of us don’t enjoy foggy days and dead roses.
In my approach to the differences between the poems, I had trouble organizing my ideas because there were so many fascinating details that summed up to large differences that it was hard to know exactly where to start. Thus, I tried to focus on the principal difference, which in my opinion is their different use of metaphor. Since I already meticulously described the sole metaphor in “Fog”, I will make an attempt to now focus on painstakingly paving out an argument of the use of a metaphor in “The Sick Rose”. The “The Sick Rose” is a little more complex than “Fog” in its use of metaphor. In fact, some would speculate if there is even a metaphor being used in Blake’s poem. And unfortunately I would have to agree because there is not enough evidence. What I had in mind was that the “invisible worm” perhaps became the “howling storm” and I would differ this from “Fog” because in “Fog”, it was the weather condition that became the animal and here in “The Sick Rose” it was vice versa. But now I see it in a different way. I see the worm and the storm as one, a team, working together to destroy the rose. Perhaps Blake includes a storm and not just the worm alone in order to create an even larger monster planning to cast the rose to sleep. Ironically, not only does the worm and the storm work together in creating a sense of terror in the poem, but also they work together to create rhyme and form in the poem. Although a storm is capable of killing a rose, in the end it is the worm that kills the rose. Or we could argue that it was both of them because without the storm the worm could not have traveled to reach the rose.
Perhaps now that I have dropped my argument of “The Sick Rose” embodying a metaphor, it is more obvious to me that the idea and attitude of each poet is quite different. Differences between the sources of life in each poem can be found. In “Fog” there is one source of life, which is the “fog that comes on little cat feet” (570). In “The Sick Rose” there are three sources of life introduced: the rose, the worm, and the storm. Many may argue with the storm being alive but I am more concerned with the literal terms of the poem and less concerned with biological conditions. Within this content various contrasts can be made: the fog is very cloudy and visible while the worm is invisible; the fog is silent and mellow, while the storm moans with great sounds of wind and is very violent; and most important, although I stated earlier the fog blocks out the sun’s energy to give life, in the context it does not do anyone harm, while the worm and storm perform a horrendous crime of murdering the rose.
The two poems also contrast tremendously in form and style. According to diction, Blake is quite brutish and enclosed with complexity, while Sandburg uses simpler and more delicate words, showing more freedom in his choice of words. Sandburg displays more simplicity in his form and is not worried about rhyme. On the other hand, Blake wants a rhyme on his second and fourth lines of each stanza. Although Sandburg introduces no rhyme, he tends to be more on the meter than Blake who is more jumpy. Furthermore, in “The Sick Rose” the poet speaks to the rose as he tells the rose how it will die, whereas in “Fog” the poet is merely a reporter.
The two poets also differ in use of tone and attitude towards their poems. Sandburg’s tone and attitude in the “Fog” is one of a gracious observer. He uses a metaphor to describe how peaceful and silent the fog is and how it just comes and goes in silence leaving no trace behind. Sandburg’s approach produces imagery of calmness, silence, and perhaps unimportance. This is strongly reflected with the last line “and then moves on.” (570) In contrast, Blake’s tone and attitude is intense and violent, almost provocative at times. It utterly creates weight and importance on the sick rose. One example is how he starts out using an exclamation in his first line as he speaks to the rose in anguish. In conclusion, “Fog” because of its use of metaphor and calm tone tends to focus more on developing a strong, temperate image, (more on description), while “The Sick Rose” uses fierce, moving words to create strong feelings as it concludes with death, grief, and great emotional sorrow.
The Sick Rose
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.