What do the peony and the rose symbolize?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What do the rose and peony symbolize in the poem, “Advice to My Son,” by J. Peter Meinke? They symbolize the things of fleeting beauty, things that do not sustain themselves over time, things that bring short lived joy to life. Although things of such beauty are necessary in life, there is more.

To be specific, between the peony and the rose
plant squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes;
beauty is nectar
and nectar, in a desert, saves–
but the stomach craves stronger sustaenance
than the honied vine.

The author admonishes the reader to plant food that provides nourishment along with things of beauty. One needs balance in life; it is fine to admire the sweet smell and loveliness of the flowers as they are exquisite but one must be sure to prepare for more difficult times, and events that occur in life. The peony and the rose symbolize things that bring pleasure to life for a short time but will not sustain a person through all that life brings.

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