The Symbolic Rose

The Symbolic Rose

The Symbolic Rose

The Symbolic Rose

Excerpt

Much in the past half century has been written under the threat of war. In fact, the wasteland has been so prevailing a symbol of our era that it is surprising as well as encouraging to find it rivaled by the rose. In the following pages I have sought to reveal the extent of that rivalry and the importance of the rose symbol as a central expression of current times. I have sought to explain its special appeal to almost every modern writer who uses symbolism, and to analyze in detail its dominance in the works of Yeats, Eliot, and Joyce, the three leading British writers of our century. This attempt has required a study of the symbolic technic itself, which is supreme among modern technics, as is the rose among modern symbols. And since neither symbols nor roses are fresh-born phenomena of our age, it has also required a study of the long Western tradition of roses which has formed today's symbolic use of the multiple flower as surely as the past has formed today.

But the history of roses, even in the Western world alone, is too vast in its totality for a single study. Nor is historical exhaustiveness essential to an understanding of the contemporary symbol. I have limited my focus to modern British roses, and have accordingly not treated the parallel symbolic flowers of such Continental writers as Valéry and Rilke, or the unquestionably abundant though generally less suggestive roses of America. With British literature as focus, I have limited my background to those roses that have helped to form the current British symbol.

Western literary roses began in ancient Greece and Rome . . .

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