The Rose Beyond Ireland

Throughout most of Yeats’ poetry that we’ve already looked at, we see the usage of the rose as a symbol to represent Ireland. In his poem “To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time,” Yeats’ rose could be interpreted as Ireland being crucified upon the cross, probably relating the cross to Britain. The rose is not merely representing Ireland, but also nature and beauty being brought down by the man-made wooden structure that is the rood.  Yeats’ writes, “Eternal beauty wandering on her way”, that eternal beauty is the rose and he also personifies it as something feminine. We have discussed Yeats’ admiration of Maude Gonne as the symbol of Irish nationalism; therefore, we see here that Yeats makes her the rose as well as Ireland. Focusing on the word eternal we can gather that the rose is forever pinned upon the rood of time, waiting to be resurrected. Simply by looking at this poem we can figure out that the rose plays a very symbolic role in Yeats’ work. It represents Ireland, but it also is the manifestation of the people of Ireland, beauty, and desire. This desire exists in many forms, desire for the freeing of Ireland, an emotional desire for Maude Gonne, and a desire to return to the Celtic roots of Ireland. The Red Rose possibly Ireland, the proud Rose possibly Maude Gonne, and the sad Rose the sentimentality for the “old” Ireland. All of these things that the rose is a symbol for are threatened and pinned down by the rood. Are there any other thoughts on what the rose could represent in this poem or in any other work we’ve discussed?

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