Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Rose
To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time: Allusions to the Past, a Message for the Present 12th Grade
In “To the Rose upon the Rood of Time,” the speaker asks the Rose to come near him while he sings of old Irish tales, such as Cuchulain’s fighting the sea, the Druid and Fergus, and the Rose’s own sadness. He again invites the Rose close to him but asks it to keep a certain distance so as to avoid losing sight of the real world. Intending to sing of times past, he addresses the Rose again in the final line. In this poem, William Butler Yeats asserts the importance of finding beauty without deluding oneself; his message is backwards-looking in some of its references and allusions, but is also informed by a timeless yet tempered optimism.
Through the symbol of the Rose, Yeats conveys the beauty of ancient Ireland. He begins the poem proclaiming, “Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!” (Yeats 1). As a traditional symbol of love and beauty, the Rose evokes Yeats’ nationalistic view of Ireland’s past to associate with his homeland that same beauty that the flower represents. The Roses’ red and proud qualities also express the pride Yeats’ himself carries for Ireland’s history. However, in describing it as “sad,” Yeats also raises the idea of the duality of the rose’s beauty: the flower represents eternal beauty with its...
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