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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Analysis

Roses

Symbol Analysis

Cummings boldly goes where many have gone before by writing about roses in a love poem. If you've ever been alive on this earth on Valentine's Day, then you've seen a billion, bright-red examples of this popular symbol of love. (They're nice, but are they really all that original, fellas?) Because he is awesome, Cummings manages to pluck these flowers from the garden of clichés and replants them in fertile new ground.

  • Lines 7-8: The flower of love gets its first mention in the second stanza, where the speaker uses a simile to compare the way his lover opens him emotionally to the way spring opens roses. The already obvious love symbolism is taken to an erotic place with all this talk of spring "touching skilfully,mysteriously." Cummings also messes with our heads a bit by describing the speaker, who we assume is male, as the flower. It's probably sexist, but the popular perception generally relates women to flowers, right? Okay that's definitely sexist, but it's hard to deny that Cummings is flipping the usual script here. 
  • Lines 9-12: The third stanza carries the image of the rose through, but this time uses another simile to compare the way the speaker's lover can close him down emotionally to the way a rose shuts in winter. All the connotations from the previous line apply here, too. What's interesting is that this doesn't come off as a sad image at all. Instead, it's described as being beautiful. In our minds, this is one of the things that saves it from being cliché. Using a sad, cold rose in a snow-covered garden to symbolize dead love would make us yawn, but instead, the act of it closing itself against the cold is celebrated. Weird, right? But it's also cool. 
  • Lines 17-20: The speaker ties up this extended metaphor of his lover being able to open and close him like a rose in the final stanza by saying that he has no idea how she has this mysterious power. He goes on to say that whatever this power is, it's "deeper than all roses." How is a rose deep? Well, if we think about it like there's some deep natural force that make roses grow, then we kind of understand it. Also, if you stare into the folds of a rose's petals, it really can seem like you're staring into another dimension. You can get lost in the patterns of its design. What's crazy is that the speaker says, "the voice of [his lover's] eyes is deeper than all roses [our emphasis]." So she's even more powerful and more mysterious than whatever makes a rose tick.
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