The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Go, Lovely Rose” is Edmund Waller’s most notable work. Waller was a prominent figure in seventeenth century England, and his poems circulated widely before they were published in a collected edition in 1645. “Go, Lovely Rose” conveys a carpe diem (“seize the day”) theme similar to that of two other famous poems of the same era: “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” (1648) by Robert Herrick and “To His Coy Mistress” (1681) by Andrew Marvell. The poem, which contains four stanzas, each with five lines, has symmetry in theme as well as form. The rose, addressed in the first line, serves as the unifying image, symbolizing the brevity of youth and beauty.

The poem opens with a conversation of sorts between the speaker and a rose. The rose must relay an urgent request to another: “Go, lovely rose,/ Tell her that wastes her time and me/How sweet and fair she seems to be.” The rose serves as a metaphor for an attractive woman. The speaker hopes that the lesson provided by the rose will prompt the maiden to yield to his advances. There is a sense of impatience in the speaker’s tone in line 2; she “wastes her time and me.” The term “waste” suggests not only that the girl is careless in squandering time but also that her delay has more serious connotations. The word might also imply exhaustion or devastation, reinforcing the vision of death expressed in the final stanza, when the rose must die. Moreover, the poet uses...

(The entire section is 555 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Waller is known for his development of fluid metrical forms. The poet is credited with refining the heroic couplet (two rhymed lines, written in iambic pentameter). His sense of regular rhythms in his lyric poetry inspired later English poets such as John Dryden (1631-1700) and Alexander Pope (1688-1744). “Go, Lovely Rose” contains a regular rhythm and rhyme scheme. The lines are composed primarily of iambic feet—every other syllable is stressed. In the five-line stanzas, the first and third lines are short, only four syllables, while the remaining three lines each contain eight syllables. The short lines, especially those that begin the stanzas, contain commands and interrupt the regular iambic rhythm with the use of strongly accented syllables, as in the lines “Go, lovely rose” in the opening and the spondaic stress of “Then die” in the final stanza. In addition, the rhyme scheme reinforces the metrical structure of the poem. The short lines of each stanza rhyme, as do the longer lines (2, 4, and 5), forming an ababb rhyme scheme.

Waller employs apostrophe in addressing the rose in line 1 and commissioning the flower to deliver his message. Such figurative language provides the speaker with a sense of detachment. The woman whom the rose must visit has obviously been unmoved by the speaker’s previous advances. He must send a flower to do his bidding. Thus, it will not be the impatient suitor who will try to pry the reticent...

(The entire section is 414 words.)