Poem of the Day: ‘(Song) Go, Lovely Rose’
Edmund Waller here touches familiar themes in Cavalier poetry: the brevity of life and beauty, and the consequent necessity to make much of the day while it lasts.
Edmund Waller (1606–1687), a long-serving member of the House of Commons and a Royalist sympathizer in the first English Civil War, was considered a major poet in his lifetime, though his reputation has languished in the intervening centuries. His most enduringly famous poem, “(Song) Go, Lovely Rose,” in ababb-rhymed stanzas of alternating meters, touches familiar themes in Cavalier poetry: the brevity of life and beauty, and the consequent necessity to make much of the day while it lasts.
(Song) Go, Lovely Rose
by Edmund Waller
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.
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.
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.
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!
With “Poem of the Day,” The New York Sun offers a daily portion of verse selected by the Sun’s poetry editor, Joseph Bottum of Dakota State University, with the help of a North Carolina poet, Sally Thomas. Tied to the day, or the season, or just individual taste, the poems will be typically drawn from the lesser-known portion of the history of English verse. In the coming months we will be reaching out to contemporary poets for examples of current, primarily formalist work, to show that poetry can still serve as a delight to the ear, an instruction to the mind, and a tonic for the soul.