Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Rose, harsh rose,
- From the first word of the poem, you might be fooled into thinking that this was just another pretty poem about roses, right?
- Well, our speaker sets us strait right away! The second word, "harsh," gives us some clue that this particular poem isn't inclined to describe roses in a typical fashion.
- For one thing, this poem actually addresses the rose directly, unlike other famous ones (see "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," for example), which deliberately announce that the rose is a metaphor for other things.
- If there is a metaphor in this poem, it's much more subtle than ones that we've run across before. Stay tuned – it's clear that this poem isn't going to give up its secrets too easily.
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,
- So, this rose isn't about to win any beauty pageants any time soon.
- Our speaker seems to be going out of her way to explain all the reasons why this rose just isn't as pretty as the ones that we run across in our everyday life. Crappy petals? Check. Stingy-looking blossom? Check. Dried-up, ugly leaves? Check.
- It's fair to say that nobody's going to be plunking down money to take this rose home anytime soon.
- Which brings us to an interesting point: just pretend that the rose is a woman. (We're not saying that the rose is woman. It's just an interesting thought experiment.)
- Back in the early twentieth century, women weren't thought of as members of the workforce. They were primarily wives or mothers.
- Well, when your sole goal is to do well in the marriage market, chances are that you start to think of your qualities in the same way that we think about flowers now. Pretty? Smell nice? That's about all you need. A woman (or, um, a rose) that doesn't fit this description might have a rough time of it.