When Roses cease to bloom, Sir

Getreidefeld mit Mohnblumen und Lerche, 1887, Vincent van Gogh
Background Image: Getreidefeld mit Mohnblumen und Lerche, 1887, Vincent van Gogh

This poem was written for Samuel Bowles and also included the flowers mentioned herein, yet beyond just a simple statement of giving him something beautiful with which to remember her, is the idea here that she wants to also be remembered for the poems she wrote.

The first line of the poem not only refers to the day when she will die, but also when the “Roses” no longer bloom anew and the “Violets are done” in her poems. Yet the paradox here is that these flowers will not actually die because they have attained an immortality on the page. For example, though the “Bumblebees” are “in solemn flight” to mourn her passing, this image of the bees flying sadly into a setting sun is strikingly beautiful (and sad), it’s cinematic and just as she has been dead for well over a century, this image persists in the imaginations of the reader.

Thus the final word of the poem, “pray!”, is not just an exclamation, but the whole poem operates as a sort of prayer in which by reading it the flowers once again bloom, and life flows through the hand that briefly “paused to gather” them, and the bees are still sailing towards into the dusk. Emily has very much attained her desire to be remembered, though I wonder how she would feel about the fame she has achieved since her death?