Kipling’s ‘Blue Roses’ is a short love poem that uses the blue rose as a symbol of unattainable love and in the end, death. The poem speaks on themes of love, love lost, and dedication. The poet’s tone is direct as his speaker addresses the nature of his quest and the loss of his love. Kipling is, therefore, able to create a mood that varies between incredulity and sorrow as he outlines what happened to the speaker and his lover.
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Summary of Blue Roses
The poem follows a speaker who is sent by his love on a trip to find a blue rose. She’s unwilling to accept all the white and red ones he offered. Despite how hard he searched he was unable to come upon any blue roses. The world laughed in his face at the absurdity of his quest and when he got back to his love she had died. He hoped that she would find what she’s looking for in the “arms of Death”. In the last lines, he declares that red and white roses are by far the best.
Structure of Blue Roses
‘Blue Roses’ by Rudyard Kipling is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD, and so on changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The stanzas are similar in line lengths, ranging from around seven to nine syllables each.
Another type of rhyme at work in Kipling’s poem is half-rhyme. Also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For example, “I” and “delight” in line two of the first stanza and “silly” and “seeking” in lines two and three of the third stanza.
Poetic Techniques in Blue Roses
Kipling makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Blue Roses’. These include but are not limited to symbolism, alliteration, personification, and enjambment. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “Roses red” in line one of the first stanza and “Bade” and “blue” in line four of the first stanza.
Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. In the case of ‘Blue Roses’ Kipling personifies death as human enough to have “arms” in the second stanza. Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. Here are examples throughout ‘Blue Roses’. For instance, the transition between lines three and four of the second stanza.
Symbolism is when a poet uses objects, colors, sounds, or places to represent something else. It is one of the most important techniques at work in this poem. The blue rose, which the speaker quests after throughout the first stanzas is a symbol of unattainable love. It is impossible to find and while searching for it the speaker’s love dies.
Analysis of Blue Roses
Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love’s delight.
She would none of all my posies–
Bade me gather her blue roses.
In the first stanza of ‘Blue Roses,’ the speaker begins by making use of the line “Roses red and roses white”. A version of this same phrase is used several times in ‘Blue Roses’. It provides the reader with a good example of alliteration and it also describes the effort the speaker initially went to please his love. He picked these flowers for her “delight”. Despite his best effort none of these flowers satisfied her. She told him instead that she wanted the impossible, “blue roses”. These roses do not exist in reality but the speaker went to search for them anyway.
Half the world I wandered through,
Seeking where such flowers grew.
Half the world unto my quest
Answered me with laugh and jest.
In the second stanza of ‘Blue Roses,’ the speaker describes what he did and where he went in an effort to find his love for these non-existent flowers. He traveled everywhere in an effort to find these flowers. They had to grow somewhere, he thought. The perfect rhyme in these lines helps create a storybook fairytale-esque feeling to these events.
Even though he looked near and far there were none to be found. The world laughed in his face. This is an example of synecdoche, a literary technique where a word stands in for something more complex. Kipling uses the “world” to describe his experience rather than saying everyone he came upon laughed at him.
Home I came at wintertide,
But my silly love had died,
Seeking with her latest breath
Roses from the arms of Death.
The third quatrain brings the speaker back home. His trip has been fruitless. It was winter when he returned and his “silly love had died”. This woman, who had asked for the impossible, perished while she was waiting for it. Then, the speaker, who sought out this impossibility suffered her loss. The love was a “silly” one. It was, in the end, pointless, bringing only pain upon all those involved. The last line of this stanza provides the reader with a good example of personification. Kipling personifies death, describing it as a force with “arms”. It is to Death that the speaker’s love went and from him now that she has to seek “Roses”.
It may be beyond the grave
She shall find what she would have.
Mine was but an idle quest–
Roses white and red are best!
In the final four lines of ‘Blue Roses,’ the speaker adds in conclusion that possibly his love will be happy when she gets into the next life. But for him, things have not changed for the better. He is still lost, without his love, and exhausted by the “idle quest” he was sent on. The poem concludes with the statement that “Roses white and red are best”. This can be interpreted in several different ways. First, the achievable things or traditional things in life are the most valuable. Or, if taken a whole, that the quest proves that one should not waste their time on something impossible.