Analysis Of Robert Essick's My Pretty Rose Tree

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Robert N. Essick argues that this shift in Blake’s female representations is linked with his personal circumstances at the time. Stephen Greenblatt agrees that the vehement attacks on the “torment caused by a possessive, jealous, female will… probably reflect a trouble period at home” (76). His wife, Catherine Boucher “was five years younger than Blake, her family was poorer and of slightly lower social standing and she may have been illiterate” until their marriage in 1782 (Essick, Blake’s Female Will 617). It appears that Catherine assumed a subordinate role as a duteous, devoted wife, especially in an incident between Blake’s younger brother and her where she was forced to “kneel down and beg” for his pardon (618). At a professional level, Catherine helped her husband manage his freelance work, “colour the pages of illuminated books” and print plates (619). Despite a longing for them, the couple had no children (Essick, ODNB par. 11). Taking this context into account when reading “My Pretty Rose Tree,” the poem can be interpreted as an attack on his wife. The inability of the rose tree to produce blossoms and roses could be a direct commentary on Catherine’s inability to bare children regardless of Blake’s “tend[ing]” (Blake, Rose Tree 6), the utmost important role of a woman at this time. In the transformation of the tree’s “jealous” is marked by the speaker’s descriptions of her: by the end the speaker no longer calls the tree “pretty.” The second poem of the plate

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