‘Go, Lovely Rose’ by Edmund Waller is a four stanza lyric poem separated into sets of five lines, or quintains. It was first published in 1645 in Waller’s collection, Poems. This work is noted for its carpe diem, or “seize the day,” theme. A piece of this nature seeks to encourage the listener or reader to take care of every minute of the lives, as they are limited.
Both the rhyme scheme and rhythm scheme of this piece are consistent. The poem follows a rhyming pattern of ababb. This pattern is emphasized by the metrical choices made by the poet. ‘Go, Lovely Rose’ adheres to a structure that is almost entirely iambic. This means that the lines are made out of sets of unstressed and stressed syllables.
The length of the lines does alternate, though. The short lines of each stanza, (1 and 3) contain four syllables, or two iambs, while the long lines (2, 4, and 5) have eight syllables, or four iambs. A reader should take note of the fact that the short lines rhyme together as do the long lines.
Summary of Go, Lovely Rose
The poem begins with the speaker asking a rose to speak with a woman he loves. It is through the beauty of the rose he to convince the woman of a number of things. The most important of these is that he is worth loving and she is worth admiring. He no longer wants her to hide from him. The speaker believes her beauty, and time on earth, is going to waste because she does not allow him to look at her.
The poem concludes with the speaker telling the rose to “die” after speaking with the woman. This final shock will further motivate the woman to come forward and stop, he thinks, wasting her time.
Analysis of Go, Lovely Rose
Go, lovely Rose—
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
In the first stanza of ‘Go, Lovely Rose’, the speaker begins by addressing a rose. This flower is one that he is planning of sending to a woman he loves. He asks the rose to first upon its arrival in the hand of this woman, informs her that she should not be wasting time. The speaker hopes the flower, and the beauty and love it represents, will encourage the woman to accept his advances. It is not only her time she is wasting, but the speaker’s as well.
In the third line, he asks that the rose conveys to the woman that he sees her beauty as being comparable to that of the flower. He wants her to understand that she is just as attractive to him as the flower. This is certainly a compliment, onto which he adds that she is also “sweet and fair.” The final three words of this section allude to the fact that maybe the speaker doesn’t know the woman as well as he’d like. He says that she “seems to be” the way he is describing her. Perhaps she really isn’t.
Tell her that’s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
The second stanza weaves a complicated and strange compliment aimed at the speaker’s object of affection. He is still trying to convince her to increase her opinion of him, but at the same time show her that if she doesn’t, her beauty is going to waste. The speaker compares the woman, hiding from his gaze, to a rose that is unseen by “men.”
He crafts an anecdote in which a rose grows in the desert “where no men abide.” If a flower were ever to have this misfortune it would certainly die. Not from lack of resources, but because it would never be “commended.” A rose, such as the woman is, cannot live without being appreciated for her beauty. Although strange, this was seen as a complement to the speaker. Perhaps it was even received as one by the woman.
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
The speaker continues on the same path in the second stanza. He is hoping to convince the woman he loves, or at least admires, that she cannot live without his praise. There is no reason, he thinks, for beauty to exist away from the light. He says that “Small is the worth” of a woman, or flower’s beauty, if it is “from the light retired.”
Waller’s speaker returns to directly addressing the rose in the third line of this quintain. He had become consumed in his own beliefs about beauty, and is now returning to his mission. The rose is told to inform the woman that she must “come forth.” Through the rose’s inherent beauty, it will convince the woman to step into the light that is his gaze.
The following lines ask that the woman learn that she must accept the fact that she is desired. Even if she doesn’t initially want to be, she has to change her mind. The speaker sees the woman’s reticence to accept his advances as being due to her shyness. He asks that she learn “not [to] blush” at the idea of being “admired.”
Then die—that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair!
The fourth stanza starts out shockingly. One must remember that the speaker is still addressing the rose. After it has done its job and convinced the woman to come out into the light, it should die. After having done this the woman will be shocked into understanding that she too is subject to the “common fate of all things rare.” He feels as if she doesn’t understand that one day she will die. If he is able to convey that fact to her, perhaps she will be even more motivated to come to him.
The final couplet makes a general statement about beauty. In these lines, the speaker once more compares a woman’s beauty, and limited time on earth, to that of a rose. Their lifespans and qualities are similar. They are both “wondrous sweet and fair!”