“Song” By Edmund Waller Essay, Research Paper
For many centuries, young men have been telling their sweethearts about ephemeral youth and passion which, like a candle, burns brightly but dies out slowly but surely. Edmund Waller’s persona in the poem “Song” is such a young man. He sends a rose to his beloved to “Tell her that [she] wastes her time and [him] (2) by acting shy and staying out of sight. This young lover is trying to tell his paramour that their time is too short for such petty things. He is telling her to forget society and let her feelings lead the way. The speaker of this poem wants his mistress to understand this eagerness of his, and drop everything and come running to enjoy their momentary love.
In the first stanza, the young lover is commanding a rose to go and deliver a message of the urgency of his love to his sweetheart. He commands the rose to tell her that she is wasting their precious youth by acting ignorant when she knows that he admires her. He “resembles her to [the rose]” (4), and discovers “How sweet and fair she seems to be” (5). He uses the rose as a symbol of her beauty. He compares her to the rose because roses are beautiful things that last only for a certain time. By this comparison, he wants her to see the evanescence of anything beautiful. This young lover wants his mistress to see her beauty and youth in a new way. He wants her to stop wasting time and give in to the beckoning call of love.
In the second stanza, the speaker is commanding the rose to tell his paramour to throw off her robe of modesty and show off her beauty while she can. He understands that she is young “And shuns to have her graces spied” (7), but he wants the world to see her beauty and admire her for it. He wants to walk into a room with his beautiful mistress and see the men fighting for a glance at her and the women envying from afar. He wants poems written about her beauty and ballads sung about her virtue. Thus, he sends the lovely rose. He sends her the rose so she can admire its beauty, and, by doing so, she will be admiring herself. He commands the rose to tell her that if it had “sprung / In deserts, where no men abide” (8-9), then the rose “must have uncommended died” (10). By asking the rose to tell her this, the speaker is illustrating that hidden beauty such as hers needs to be praised. Otherwise, the loveliness will fade without fulfilling its purpose: in life to be admired and praised. The young lover is showing her how cruel she is for trying to hide her beauty. He wants her to see that just as she gets pleasure from admiring the rose, he gets pleasure from admiring her. So he sends her the lovely rose as a reminder of her beauty.
The speaker, in the third stanza, is commanding the rose to go “Bid her come forth” (13) and be the object of his admiration. He wants her to know that there is no worth in hidden beauty. What one cannot see, one cannot appreciate seems to be his philosophy. He sends her the rose so she will see its beauty and its proud petals standing upright in the spotlight of her admiration. In seeing the glorious rose basking in praise, she may want to feel as proud and noble herself. He wants her to come into the light and subject “herself to be desired” (14). The young lover knows that his love is shy and modest, but he also knows that she must endure his appreciation in order for their love to progress. He wants her to be proud of the admiration and “not blush so to be admired” (15). He wants her to be like the rose, standing proud and boastful, waiting to be admired.
In the last stanza of the poem, the speaker commands the rose to die so that his beloved may see the ephemerality of all things “That are so wondrous sweet and fair” (20). He is not only talking about the rose as sweet and fair, but also of his love. The speaker wants his sweetheart to see herself in the lovely rose. He wants her to see the “common fate of all things rare” (17) in the death of the rose. He is not just talking about the death of the rose but of anything beautiful, including her. By saying that the fate of all things rare is death, he is implying that her beauty is not everlasting. He is saying that if she waits any longer, her beauty that he admires may not be there for him to so. He is urging her to seize the day, and “come forth” (13) to be his love.
The young lover of this poem seems to be in a hurry to find love. His tone seems to have urgency to it. It is as though he is looking more for physical love than for that of the heart. Although his claims may be valid, they are arguable. His beloved may lose her beauty, but it will not happen overnight. If his love were real, he would not care about her physical beauty. He seems to be a typical male who has only one thing on his mind, and it does not look like it is love. His actions suggest a “carpe diem” attitude which he is trying to impress upon his beloved. Thus, he uses the lovely rose to remind his love of “How small a part of time they share” (19); to remind her of the urgency of his love, and entice her to forget her modesty and allow “herself to be desired” (14).