William Dunbar

(1460 - 1522 / Scotland)

Sweet Rose Of Virtue - Poem by William Dunbar

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue that is held most dear―
except only that you are merciless.

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I saw flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently―
yet nowhere, one leaf or flower of rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair rose of pallid and gentle cast,
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again―
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.

Form: Sonnet

Comments about Sweet Rose Of Virtue by William Dunbar

  • (5/1/2018 12:55:00 AM)

    Please note that this is my translation of the poem, not the original version by William Dunbar. (Report) Reply

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  • Susan Williams (5/22/2016 4:20:00 PM)

    Ah! ! ! ! Isn't that sweet? He's comparing the lady to the lilies and roses in her garden. We all know that lilies and roses are symbols for beauty and virtue. So the poet is extolling the beauty and virtue of the woman he loves, right? And all the women readers jump up and yell NO. Ha! We recognize this for what it is. Sure enough. He starts complaining that there is no rue in her garden. Rue- symbol for pity, mercy, compassion. So now he is whining that she lacks compassion- she's one cold-hearted fish. Why? Cuz she's not proving her compassion by sleeping with him. In the final stanza, he's telling all and sundry that a cold spell has killed their love but he's still wanting to plant a root again. ARGH! These old classic writers are really slippery fellers. They can write these courtly love poems that just cozy up to a woman's heart- -all that passionate/flattering/loving/erotic/ spiritual flowery stuff but we notice the erotic stuff embedded in it. (Report) Reply

    Susan Williams (2/24/2018 12:29:00 AM)

    Jamie- I like my interpretation better than yours! ! ! ;)

    (2/22/2018 10:50:00 AM)

    I believe he is talking about the death of his fair rose. When he says rue he is saying that March came in with his last blast of arctic with no regret because she was pallid-ill. The ending is clearly saying that he wishes he was able to replant her roots, as in, bring her back.

  • Kim Barney (5/22/2016 1:42:00 PM)

    First sonnet I've ever seen with fifteen lines! (Report) Reply

  • Mohammed Asim Nehal (5/22/2016 1:06:00 PM)

    Into your garden, today, I followed you;
    there I saw flowers of freshest hue, Nicely written.
    (Report) Reply

  • Atu-wonders Osim (5/22/2016 11:51:00 AM)

    great poem! ...on the scorching effect of the heat in the month of March.

    Oh March! You month of March
    that blaze my orchard and leave
    them dry and pale and sad...
    How wicked you are!
    (Report) Reply

  • (5/22/2016 12:29:00 AM)

    Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness
    Except only that you are merciless
    Contrast wonderfully articulated. Nice work. Thanks for sharing.
    (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (5/22/2016 12:21:00 AM)

    Gentleness! With the muse of peace and love. Nice piece of work. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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