A White Rose

THE red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O, the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.

But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips

by John Boyle O'Reilly

Other poems of O'REILLY (150)

Comments (3)

A sonnet that is considered by many to be the key to understanding Shakespeare's attitude to love. It plays out the old battle between spiritual and physical love, a subject which had been the jousting field of argument for centuries. The poet seems to ally himself with the traditionalists who believed that the nature of woman was such as to corrupt pure love. In Platonic terms she was the material dross of which bodies were made, but the spiritual ideal love was independent of her, and true love could really only subsist between males.
In terms of Christian theology, woman was the devil and was responsible for the fall since she had tempted man to eat forbidden fruit. Any form of congress with a woman was corrupting, and the ideal life would always be one of chastity and abstention from sex. The doctrine was alleviated slightly by devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, but despite giving birth she was a virgin and worshipped as the Blessed Virgin Mary. A mitigation to this view was the reality of life itself, which always returned to insist that the majority of men would continue to desire women.
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