Look to the rose

Look to the fossil rose, still prime in stone, still perfect in repose full-petaled, gone quiet in Oregon: not blown, not faltering off the stem, not fumbling shut in frost, nor final ever, its diagram still not lost though aeons fell landsliding down through seasons never counted: look to the rose of Oregon still primly minted. Look to the past where pictured grows essentially, still red and fast, the poem's rose: where Waller by the purest paradox abjured the passing hour, so firm he radicated and ensured his lines, his lady, and his imaged flower; where Pound took up the selfsame bud and ambered it one layer more translucently in lively word laid on, wrought over, golden sap-color. Look to the wildness of the centuries, and how one roving replica has tamed rocks, invented ease into the tomb, contour upon clay. The frescoed flower delineate of joy once his, anonymous lover of dead Minoan roses, now is our delight. Time passes permanence from receiver to receiver. Look to antiquity: rose-excellence which Horace wrote and Persia sang; whose everlasting sea Anacreon forever caught in nets of meter: how we bind it yet with shuttling lines of bees, and the thorny weave of tending hands,

into varieties and varieties

so vast, even Linnaeus sighed

comparing rose with rose -

beauty so singularly diversified:

who names it, falters more, the more he knows.

What Sappho praised and Josephine

prospered, and in between when favor slipped,

what murmurous monastic walls would screen

from negligence: what cleric shelter kept

rosaried and a holiness:

at Malmaison

imperial preference and largess

protected to the sum of one

Musk, eight Albas, three

Foetidas, four Spinosissimas,

twenty-two Chinas, nine Damasks, three

Mosses, twenty-seven Centifolias,

and types of all of one hundred and sixty-seven

Gallicas. And Redoute two hundred ways

published and kept them proven,

forerunning still, though phantom to our eyes:

their traits of epoch fused longsince

from actuality.

O empress-rose,

no queen's track of inheritance

parallels the ermine lineage of snows

whose dynasties have wintered you: whose springs

of infinite beauty-bent rosarians

have nursed you, suffering your stings,

as infant-kicks which mothers of small sons

still sucking and in-arms,

delight to feel as proof of lustiness,

vaunted among the surly charms

of their bud-darlings. Rose-breeders dote no less.

Then tell us, what is the shape of the face

of beauty? slenderly tapering?

pointed? ovoid? urn? vase?

globular budding? And how among

all colors decide the shade of the cheek

of beauty? white as the pledge of secrecy?

or breaking troth, turning from York

to blush and deepen fierily

toward Lancaster? or like the striped

and damask hybrid, stolen of both?

or otherwise entirely, steeped

in gold, befitting heraldic cloth,

as that first Edward's badge? Who knows

what innuendo or restraint of hue

conforms perfection? or if this rose

be fair at all, if it's not fair for you?

Of character: tell us criterion.

Good manners and a gentle grace?

as Roses of Castile, not new in Babylon?

or rose that hangs its head, half-hidden its face,

the inclining soft-necked tea? or proud,

the straight-line standard, stiff

with excellence as on parade?

Virgil's remontant bloom? or half

that double spring? beauty monotonous en masse?

or more reserved, the single stance

which guards that kind of stateliness

proper to keep a claimed magnificence?

large-looming liberal show?

or miniature of bud and petal,

elfin rubies, lowly jewel-snow

summed up and treasuried in little?

briarless as Banksia? or judged incomplete

without those willful thorns which rouse

respect: thus sharp and sweet,

Anacreon's darling, the wild dog rose?

Beauty which brings to mind

another beauty? as perfume

suggesting East? or tropic wind?

or musk? or mignonette? or comb

of honey? or ripe raspberries?

or twisted eglantine, the pastoral,

with leaf that cupboards up the spice

of russet apple in its cell?

O flower of flowers, how do we define

you? Are you called multiplicity?

Roses to climb a house; to entwine

walls; for hedge; for rockery;

for bank; for ground; to be bedded, where bare

precincts arise to vivid monuments

not lifted in that place before.

And wildling rose, ubiquitous innocence.

No single benefit, but many goods,

many a title, and all true.

The rose responds herself to various needs:

you cannot limit her vertu.

Then what's exactly in a rose? The name

of Chinquapin, the name of Burr,

and Chilcote and Chataigne are same

as Chestnut: one pink rose. Nomenclature

shifts with the circumstance: rose-ness is all.

Conditions change, and make the accident:

division of corymb, depth of stain,

stem-strength and bud-development.

Conditions shift, and let the rose remain.

That rose of Midas was not more

of rose than Father Hugh's, which some men call

the Golden Rose of China. And before

names were, what then?

It was the women took

root-sprouts of Harrison's Yellow toward the west

in covered wagons, close by child and Book,

toward gold-rush sunset: by whose hands was passed

pure coin from generation to generation

long after mining camps fell in,

and hasty homesteads foundered in desertion.

That vein has not run thin.

Their gold was rosy life, a plant

put down in earth with hope and hoe

wherever time might settle folk, by scant

cabin, in a strange land, to grow.

Mysterious bloom, whose parentages

loom out of terms so long-ago and deep

we cannot guess how undergone the ages

lie, whence you were thrust from final sleep

into awakening, a rose born:

o dim wild ancestors,

whose progeny sailed round the Horn

to root in richness of Pacific shores

beside the fossil, prime forever-flower

which you once were:

o roses both,

same and of Oregon in this one hour,

perfume and petalprint, immotion and growth,

twin little clouds of essences

exact with perfect center each:

instruct us in rose-everlastingness,

tell us your epochs, how they reach

beyond the years, so time keeps bringing

its roses as before.

Let us go look

with Ronsard on their sweet upspringing,

their filling, and their falling back,

and springing up again from ancient fuel

which feeds reprise, and once again reprise,

enfiring them toward pattern and control.

Superb in power, look how they stand at ease,

and make a festival of June, where sun

improves each kind: rose present and rose gone,

so bright it celebrates the traceful stone

and the surging stem: both roses one:

the Mission Rose long long longsince begun,

and the re-re-ripening in Oregon.

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