Ah! Sunflower by William Blake; The Life After Death

Ah Sunflower cover image featuring William Blake

Most of William Blake’s poems have Christianity rooted in them. Ah! Sunflower is one such poem where Blake talks about the transcendence of the immortal soul from the mortal body and the journey it takes to reach heaven. But the poem is told via the medium of a sunflower and its desire to rise above. 

Ah Sunflower is a poem that is visually symmetrical, compact, and pleasant to the ears. This goes to show the excellence of Blake in sending the message of his poem without the use of superfluous entities. 

The poem rhymes with an abab rhyming pattern. The symmetrical rhyme, two four-line stanzas, and a consistent meter make this poem mellifluous and the message behind it even more beautiful. Take a look at the poem;

Ah! Sunflower by William Blake

Ah! sunflower, weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the sun,

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,

And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,

Arise from their graves and aspire;

Where my sunflower wishes to go.

The meaning of Ah Sunflower

The poem is about the beautiful afterlife, about the world where immortal souls live. A place filled with warmth and golden sunlight, a place where the souls rise from the graves and reach. There could be multiple interpretations of the poem and still none would know what Blake originally intended. But all the interpretations are true. 

Going with the Christian-rooted meaning, the poem is about the afterlife, about heaven from souls go. And we get a glimpse of how it is when Blake says that heaven has the golden clime, where the sun shines with the golden light. He also says that it is the place where the traveller’s journey is done, implying that human life is the journey and death is the end of it. Heaven is the final destination. 

It also talks about the mortal realm where the lives are wasted in trivial pursuits, where the youth is degraded and deteriorated in maddening desires. The pale virgin who is repressed of the desires is all longing to break free and rise above their graves to reach heaven. The sunflowers wish to reach that place, where everything mortal desires to be.

Ah! Sunflower poem by William Blake

Analyzing the stanzas

Ah! sunflower, weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the sun,

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the traveller’s journey is done;

The poem starts with a sunflower and the weary state it is in. It is weary of time because it spends the day counting the steps of the sun, turning every moment, ever so slowly as the sun moves up and down.

The sunflowers are tired of time, tired of being rooted to the ground, seeking the sun and counting every step of it. These flowers are representing mortal humans, lodged into the ground, seeking the golden clime or the heavenly world, the place where every traveller’s journey is done. 

Where the youth pined away with desire,

And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,

Arise from their graves and aspire;

Where my sunflower wishes to go.

The second and final stanza is about how youth is lost in maddening desire, how the earthly forces corrupt the mind, how the repressed virgin is turned cold and pale, and how they wish to rise from their graves and reach his heavenly place. This is where the sunflowers are aspiring to reach, the weary flowers seeking sun are the ones seeking heaven. This concludes the article.

Why stop here? How about reading some more great poems and meanings? Read these articles;

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