George Herbert’s “The Rose” is a lyric and meditative poem first published as part of his collection The Temple, a group of poems written as a record of a man’s efforts to recognize and follow God’s will; it was also intended to guide and comfort others. “The Rose” has the musical and cyclical qualities typical of many poems in the collection as well as many of Herbert’s hymns that appear in the Anglican hymnal. Each of its eight stanzas of four lines has a rhyme scheme of abab. Every line begins with a beat and continues in three iambic feet. Three stanzas—1, 5, and 7—include two lines ending in feminine rhyme; that is, the second-to-last syllable receives the beat, and the unaccented syllables rhyme. These three sets of lines come to bear the important message of the poem: The rose offers pleasure, it purges, and it claims repentance.
The poem is also something of a meditation that takes the form of a dialogue with self or an imagined questioner. The speaker explains his reasons, either to a friend or to himself, for adopting the life he has chosen. His decision to give up his life in order to be more useful reflects a submission to God’s will. Pressed, in the first line, to take more pleasure in life, the speaker responds that he wants no more pleasure than he has apportioned to his “strict but welcome size.” Pleasures, he explains, do not exist. They are only griefs in disguise. He offers the rose as a...
(The entire section is 469 words.)