Considering the heavy literary weight that these beautiful budding plants bear, it's no wonder that scholars have spent hundreds of years publishing papers about the rose.
There is the memorable moment in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet when the young Capulet professes her love for the Montague son by pronouncing, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet..." In fact, the line has become so ingrained in public consciousness, that a common misquotation reads "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Publications about roses range from the superficial paperbacks at local garden outlets to the latest coffee table "takes" on the exhaustively explored subject of these flowers; from excellent reprints of sentimental Victorian and Edwardian collectors to wonderful contemporary examples of notable scholarship, and on to the heights of such rare masterpieces as Redoute's original folios for the Empress Josephine ... all the unfolding stages of knowledge and appreciation.
And then there's always 20th century poet Gertrude Stein's contribution - "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."
The literature of the Rose is a formidable territory. Encompassing sublime ancient poetry as well as pragmatic modern prose, it spans the arc from pedestrian to transcendent. Each old and new viewpoint has an angle to offer, another lens through which this flower can be seen.
February 11th, 2013
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