Roses are Red and other Famous Rose References

Perhaps the most famous poems with the word roses in it, are the rhymes that begin with “roses are red, violets are blue…” But there are references to roses in dozens of famous lines of poetry and literature. In this article, I have set out my favourite among the high brow type; and then a little history of the “roses are red” variety, together with some of my favourite endings.

For the high brow among us

Hanna Maracus, a US former journalist and now full-time freelance writer, assembled a list of 52 inspiring rose quotes for Petal Talk and their blog. I have set out my favourite 15 below, falling into categories relating to the beauty of a rose, the scent of a rose and, interestingly, the sharpness of its thorns. Which do you like the best?

1. “[A] Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” – Gertrude Stein, Sacred Emily
2. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
3. “The sweetest flower that blows, I give you as we part. For you it is a Rose, for me it is my heart.” – Frederick Peterson, The Sweetest Flower That Blows
4. “Friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
5. “Loveliest of lovely things are they on earth that soonest pass away. The rose that lives its little hour is prized beyond the sculpted flower.” – William Cullen Bryant
6. “Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

7. “He that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” – Anne Brontë, The Narrow Way
8. “Truths and roses have thorns about them.” – Henry David Thoreau
9. “Life is uncertain. Today you get a rose. Tomorrow you feel the thorns.” – Shillpi S Banerrji
10. “If you don’t feel the pointed things in life, you’ll soon take the soft ones for granted.” – John Everson, Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions
11. Just remember, during the winter, far beneath the bitter snow, that there’s a seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes a rose.” – Bette Midler, The Rose
12. “Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.” – Louisa May Alcott
13. “I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island
14. “I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.” – Emma Goldman
15. “There is simply the rose; it is perfect every moment of its existence.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the low brow among us

And what of the ode first referred to above? From whence did it come? (A long time ago, you can tell by that query.) The origin of the “Roses are red, Violets are blue” rhyme dates back to 1590 and an epic poem written by Sir Edmund Spenser called The Faerie Queene. The poem was seven books long (yes, it was epic). The third book contained these lines:

It was upon a Sommers shynie day,
When Titan faire his beames did display,
In a fresh fountaine, farre from all mens vew,
She bath’d her brest, the boyling heat t’allay;
She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forest grew.

Not feeling it? Well over the years, the “roses red, and violets blew” phrase was included in another famous literary work known as “Gammer Gurton’s Garland: Or the Nursery Parnassus.” Then in 1784, a collection of English nursery rhymes for children was published by Joseph Ritson. It included:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou’d be you

This, you will agree, sounds more familiar. Over the centuries now, those lines have spawned hundreds if not thousands of good and poor lines of poetry, of tasteful and not so tasteful jokes. The lines have been used to commence and to end relationships.

Katee Fletcher has assembled over 75 examples and I have set out my favourites from among them below. You will recognize at least two of them!

1. Roses are red, violets are blue, wine costs less than a dinner for two.
2. Roses are red, violets are blue, you look like a monkey and you smell like one too!
3. Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m not hungover, I just have the flu.
4. Roses are red, Facebook is blue, we have no mutual friends… who the hell are you?
5. Roses are red, violets are blue, I was the favorite child until they had you.
6. Roses are red, pizza sauce is too, I ordered a large but I’m not sharing with you.
7. Roses are red, violets are blue, but I wouldn’t know that because I never get them from you.
8. Roses are red, violets are blue, when things get tough, I run to you.
9. Roses are red, violets are blue, our love made all of my dreams come true.
10. Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you!

William Wallace Denslow's illustrations for "The rose is red", from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose


52 Inspiring Rose Quotes by Hanna Marcu, Petal Talk

75+ “Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue” Jokes by Katee Fletcher


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