Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Go, Lovely Rose” has preserved Waller’s reputation as a poet, in part, because of its simplicity of language. The poem marks a movement away from the seriousness of metaphysical poetry to a form reflecting less weighty subjects. The rose, personified as a creature able to deliver speeches and die on command, must urge the woman—beautiful but fragile, tangible but tenuous—to “Suffer herself to be desired/ And not blush so to be admired.” Waller employs ambiguity in the word “suffer.” The young woman must allow herself to be admired, but the word “suffer” also implies that she might feel distress at such a request. The speaker’s petition also poses a paradox. The woman who so readily blushes has cheeks the color of roses, but to cease blushing and accept the man’s advances readily, as the speaker suggests in line 15, would take away the blush and would make her pale and thus, appear less like the rose.

In the tradition of Cavalier poets, Waller addresses his mistress in a forthright manner. She is not portrayed as an unattainable, chaste goddess, but rather a maiden who must be confronted with her hesitation and chastised for her shyness. Such poetry celebrates the minor pleasures of life and is often more about the speaker than the lady who receives the address. Thus, Waller’s gentleman is frank in commanding the rose to die so that his lady may “read” her own fate: “Then die, that she/ The common fate of all things rare/...

(The entire section is 453 words.)