The Rose in “To the Rose upon the Rood of Time”

As we discussed in class today, “To the Rose upon the Rood of Time” is the first poem in Yeats’ collection entitled The Rose, a later collection of Yeats’.  Originally, this poem was published along with Gregory and Yeats’ play, “Cathleen ni Houlihan.” The poem as we mentioned centers on the symbol of a rose, which holds magical importance or significance for Yeats. In this post I will be mentioning or discussing further significance of the rose.  Yeats use of the rose may also have been a symptom of his fascination or interest in the secret order of the Knights of the Rosy Cross.  It also refers to the French movement and symbolizes eternal beauty.  However, the rose has been most known as a female symbol for Ireland itself.  It stands for the idolized woman whom all men desire, but only the rightful man or king will be able to claim.  Yeats borrows this symbol that is often associated with the violent or militant nationalist movement and uses it for his own cultural nationalist motivations.  Militant nationalists believed that the red rose only bloomed when men die or spill their blood for the sake of Ireland.  His use of this particular symbol in the poem could be interpreted as Yeats proclaiming his loyalty to the nationalist movement. Though, it is important to note that Yeats does try to distance himself from making overly political statements in his work.  This aversion seems to have something to do with Yeats not wanting to be limited or defined by his association with one group or another, again as mentioned today in class.

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