Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Summary and Analysis of "The Lilly"


This four-line poem states simply that the Lily is the superior flower, in that it offers no harm or defense of itself to one who would love it. The rose is given as a contrast with its thorns, and the sheep’s defensive horns are also cited.


The Lilly is offered as a form of perfect love in its innocence and honesty. It does not bear harmful thorns, like the rose, nor does it wear horns it will never use offensively, like the sheep. Instead, the lily offers itself as it is: pure and vulnerable.

It is this vulnerability, however, that keeps it from fully engaging in life. Although it is described mostly in positive terms, the Lily is predominantly an image of death and, in some cases, virginity. In keeping with the other flower-poems of Songs of Experience, self-denial is the same as self-murder; the lily in its purity is already dead as winter.