The Rose

Press me not to take more pleasure
      In this world of sugred lies,
And to use a larger measure
      Than my strict, yet welcome size.

First, there is no pleasure here:
      Colour’d griefs indeed there are,
Blushing woes, that look as clear
      As if they could beauty spare.

Or if such deceits there be,
      Such delights I meant to say,
There are no such things to me,
      Who have pass’d my right away.

But I will not much oppose
      Unto what you now advise:
Only take this gentle rose,
      And therein my answer lies.

What is fairer than a rose?
      What is sweeter? yet it purgeth.
Purgings enmity disclose,
      Enmity forebearance urgeth.

If then all that worldlings prize
      Be contracted to a rose;
Sweetly there indeed it lies,
      But it biteth in the close.

So this flower doth judge and sentence
      Worldly joys to a scourge:
For they all produce repentance,
      And repentance is a purge.

But I health, not physic choose:
      Only, though I you oppose,
Say that fairly I refuse,
      For my answer is a rose.

George Herbert, 1633

Some notes on the text:
sugred lies: sugared lies, lies made sweet
Colour’d griefs: griefs painted, as with makeup, to be more attractive
As if they could beauty spare: As if they had beauty enough to spare some
pass’d my right away: handed off my right
yet it purgeth: Roses were used as a purgative.
Purgings…urgeth: purgatives bring forth the harmful food, which one will avoid in future
physic: a purgative medicine
Only…Say that fairly: fairly in a double sense: 1) justly 2) prettily

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *