Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Summary and Analysis of "Ah! Sun-flower"


This simple poem echoes the form of "My Pretty Rose-Tree," and it was published on the same page as that poem in Blake's own edition of Songs of Experience. It consists entirely of a meditation upon the sunflower’s wish to follow the sun toward the west, much as real sunflowers turn their blooms toward the sun as it progresses across the sky. The sunflower longs for another place, a "golden clime" where travelers find their rest. The second stanza reiterates and develops this longing, concluding with the statement that this place the sunflower longs for is also aspired to by a pining Youth and a Virgin, each of whom rises from his/her grave to long for this land of rest.


The Sunflower more closely represents human aspirations, with its face always looking toward the sun. That it follows the sun’s progress from morning to evening shows that human aspirations must eventually end in death, symbolized by night in many of Blake’s poems. The youth and virgin both have unfulfilled desires to which they seek satiation in the sunset, suggesting that their longings may be fulfilled in the next life.

Blake's voice becomes tonally complex in this poem, conveying the feeling that he is growing tired of feeling pathos for those who will not break free of social conventions and claim their freedoms. The Youth and the "pale Virgin" both deny themselves physical pleasures in the hope that this asceticism will win them "that sweet golden clime." Like the sunflower, however, they long for yet never actually reach this desired destination.