Summary and Analysis of Ah, Sunflower by William Blake

Ah, Sunflower! Weary of time belongs to a special class of poems capable of projecting vivid symbolism and instill a thought process with little textual phrases.  It is another masterpiece from Blake with deep symbolic interpretation.  As such we’ve presented a very detailed analysis of the poem and inputs from  your end are appreciated!

Setting of the Poem:

The sunflower represents a man who is bound to earth, but is pinning for eternity. The face of the sunflower follows the course of the Sun in the hope of reaching a land which is indifferent to frustration and restriction.

Ah, Sunflower! Weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the Sun;

Seeking after the sweet golden clime,

Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Annotations and Explanation:

Ah indicates the regret of the speaker ; Sunflower symbolizes man who feels frustrated by the worldly restrains; weary of time: the sunflower is fed up with its life on earth; Who countess…Sun: The sunflower counts the step of the Sun because it turns in the direction of the sun; seeking: searching or in quest for; clime: world; seeking…clime: The sunflower searches the golden world which is the land of freedom; where the… done: The sunflower seeks a world where the seeker stops and at peace having reached his goal.

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.

Annotations and Explanation:

Pine away with desire: pine means desire, but the phrase means to suffer slowly or silent withering (as of sunflower); shrouded in snow: buried in snow; aspire: yearn; where my  sunflower wishes to do: the sunflower wishes to go to the golden world where everybody is free.

Theme of Ah, Sunflower

The very beginning is extraordinary and expressive.  The very first line enthralls the readers to the uniqueness of the poem. The poem with its suggestive symbolism leaves a sustained impact on the mind of the readers.

The sunflower is tired of its existence, perhaps because of this restrictive world. The sunflower symbolizes a man who is also a traveler. Thus, the sunflower seeks the world of liberty, the golden world where every youth and virgin wish to go. Even the death cannot stop them, they would continue to seek for the Golden world as haunted spirits! All three- The sunflower, the young man and the  virgin are seekers of the golden land.

The Image of Sunflower:

Blake might have accepted the image of Sunflower from Thomas Taylor’s translations. He could have also chosen the image from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The Mythology:

In mythology, the nymph Clytie’s love for Hyperion, the sun god goes unrequited and she died. She transformed into a flower which tracks the sun during the day as a sunflower does. Both Sun and Sunflower are considered to affirm life.

In mythology, the nymph Clytie dies from unrequited love for Hyperion, the sun god. She transforms into a flower which tracks the sun during the day, as the sunflower does. Since the sun is traditionally seen as the source of life, the sunflower can also be used as an image which affirms life. In Christianity, the sun’s rising is the East is seen as a sign of resurrection and thus, eternal life.

Critical Analysis of Ah, Sunflower

The central idea of the poem is not transparent in Blake’s Ah, Sunflower. That’s why I’ve introduced the theme, the reference of the original inspiration for the poem and now, we’ll be able to closely apprehend the actual interpretation of the poem. The central idea of this song is to understand the feelings of all young men and women who are robbed of their appetite for love. Because of this,

The Youth pines away with desire

The pale Virgin shrouded in snow

It is the earthly pathos that are made to coincide with the image of the sunflower. The sunflower whose head  points at the sun, yet it is firmly rooted in the earth is Blake’s symbol for all those lives which are dominated by longing. Blake didn’t really exaggerated his idea and assumed his poem will do the work by itself. Ah, Sunflower belongs to a class of very rare poems in which inspiration creates the very enchantment.

The Theme of Eternity and Symbolic Interpretation:

The poem has a critical symbolic meaning and supports varied criticisms. The sunflower lives on earth where it is dominated by time. The sunflower lives as a slave of time and wish to attain immortality. That’s why it looks at the sun who lives in eternity. The irony lies in the fact, the  sun itself withers the flower and dooms it to death. The “sweet golden chime” refers to the legendary Golden Age that comes when the course of sun, moon, earth and all the universe is complete.

The phrase, ‘pine away’ bears special significance as it may also refer to ‘Narcissus of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Narcissus on seeing his reflection on water, falls in love and later transforms himself into a flower of melancholy after his own name.

Thus the youth who pines away with desire is not only Narcissus, acquiring some celestial heights, but also refers to the Narcissus flower blooming from mother earth’s grave.

“Pale Virgin shrouded in snow” may remind us of Proserpine who was abducted by King of Hades. Later, her mother Cares, in search of Proserpine comes to Hades and puts her claim.

Elements of Optimism and Pessimism Intermixed:

The poem, Ah Sunflower portrays the optimistic outlook- The sunflower’s aspiration for immortality and a world of perfection. The idea of pessimism emanates on thinking the wintering away of the sunflower and its incapability of achieving eternal life.

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