José Martí

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What is a summary of the poem "I Have a White Rose to Tend"?

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José Julián Martí Pérez's poem "I Have a White Rose to Tend," originally written in Spanish, is rather short, only spanning a total of eight lines, and yet this simple poem has resonated with readers for well over a century because of its powerful message on empathy, compassion, and loving thy neighbors equally.

The first stanza reads as follows:

I have a white rose to tend

In July as in January...

This first stanza introduces us to the speaker's devotion in tending his white rose, be it a literal rose or a metaphor for something else, such as compassion or empathy. We can gather through subtext that he tends to it with the same unwavering commitment in the month of July as he does in January and likely throughout the rest of the year.

The second stanza reads:

I give it to the true friend

Who offers his frank hand to me.

In other words, this white rose that the speaker so carefully tends to is given generously to those whom the speaker trusts and regards as friends based on their own acts of kindness and generosity. 

The third stanza reads:

And for the cruel one whose blows

Break the heart by which I live,

Neither thistle nor thorn do I give:

It is easy to assume that the speaker will not share any part of his white rose with those who have committed acts of cruelty against him or have in some way abused his trust. However, this assumption is negated in the final line of the poem, which reads:

For him, too, I have a white rose.

This implies that despite anyone's ill-will toward him, the speaker will equally share his white rose with friends and enemies alike.   

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