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.)