Song” by Edmund Waller


resemble – appear similar
spied – observed
abide – stand
uncommended – not recommended, not praised

Summary / Analysis

Edmund Waller’s poem, “Song” is about a man sending a rose to a woman. This is a fascinating poem because instead of writing a card to the woman to convey what she wants to express to her, the speaker tells the rose what to represent. The rose, therefore, serves as a very important and complex symbol. Roses could convey many different messages. They are given Valentine’s Day to say “I love you,” given to a sick friend to brighten up their day, or given at funerals to console those who grieve at the loss of a loved one. They ‘re a special symbol that represents what the giver wants to say to the receiver.

In this poem, the speaker sends a symbolic rose to the woman he wants to date, but she feels unsure about herself and her possible relationship. We know this because the speaker addresses a lot of doubts the woman has, and then uses the rose to try to get them to leave. His first reason for sending a flower is that she will know “how sweet and fair she seems to be” when she compares her beauty to a rose. He goes on to make the rose “tell her that she is young” and she should accept the speaker as a suitor. In the third stanza, the speaker explains that her beauty has little value if she keeps it hidden.

In the final stanza, he tells the rose to die! I found this really curious because while people who give flowers know that they will inevitably wilt and wither, I have never met anyone who looks forward to their gift dying out! The speaker does have his reasons, however. When the rose dies, he knows the woman will examine death and come to understand that nothing can stay beautiful and young forever. The final sign of death is used by the speaker to bring home his argument of why the woman would encourage him to pursue her in dating.

Important Questions

1. According to the speaker, how should young, beautiful women behave?
The speaker’s message here seems to be that young women should not hide their beauty, but be as visible as possible so the world may enjoy it.

2. In your own words, describe what Waller means by his statement in the last stanza, “How small a part of time they share/ That are so wondrous sweet and fair!”
Answers may vary. Example: People and things that are beautiful and kind seem to live a short life on Earth.

3. How would you characterize the speaker of this poem? Explain your answer using evidence from the poem.
Answers may vary. Example: The speaker encourages those who are beautiful to “come forth” and “suffer herself to be desired,” telling women that they should not “blush so to be admired.” The speaker, then, may be considered vain in the sense that he encourages the flaunting of beauty. On the other hand, he may simply be kind, wishing women not to hide her beauty out of fear of being judged as vain.

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4. Why do you think the speaker says that “she” is wasting both his and her own time?
Answers may vary. Example: The speaker of the poem thinks that she is wasting their time because she has not realized how he feels about her.

5. What does the third stanza imply about her feelings of being pursued?
Answers may vary. Example: The speaker’s love is embarrassed and shy about his feelings for her. She blushes at his admiration.

6. In the final stanza, why does the speaker tell Rose to die?
The speaker tells Rose to die so that his love may witness the brevity of life and, in turn, act on her feelings for him quickly.

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