Poetry Analysis-Sea Rose


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 Rather than assume the normal velvety and soft description expected of a rose Hilda Doolittle’s poem the Sea Rose describes the sea rose as a harsh and hardened plant. The poem starts with a reversal of the expected in the first line where the line-Rose harsh rose-uses repetition to create emphasis on the statement. The repetition of the word rose in lines 1, 6 and 14 sets out the various ways and manner that the sea rose differs from the normal rose.

Hilda goes on to give a vivid description of the sea rose which is rough, hardened and more austere in comparison to the normal rose. The rose described is spoiled, imperfect and its appearance is marred by the Stint petals. Instead of being a glorious blossom bearing many petals the described rose is blighted and it lacks enough petals thus resulting into a meager flower.

Hilda uses her words sparingly to vividly describe the sea rose with its sparse leaves and thin nature. Instead of being a perfect rose as depicted within the literary tradition, the sea rose appears as a bloom too scanty and paltry to reach the expectations of an iconic rose which is the symbol of fragile feminine beauty and loveliness.

The first stanza shows that the idea of beauty as conceived by the poet is not representative of the conventional English garden, in which the rose takes place as a centerpiece, popular for being a beautiful plant. Instead the sea rose is stunted, wild, and able to persevere hard conditions in the borderline of the sea and the land where conditions of survival are harsh.

Despite the flaws and incomplete nature of the rose, the poet shows in the second stanza that this sea rose is actually precious for its imperfect look. There is a contrast drawn in the two lines preceding the first line which denotes the long single-stemmed beauty which lovers use to woo their partners. The introduction of the long-stemmed rose in lines 5 and 7 offers a comparison plat form upon which to compare the sea rose to the traditional rose.

This denotes a rose in a vase of water-the single on a stem which is calmly settled in a vase of water. Contrastingly, the sea rose is caught in a tumultuous drift of sea water with calm and it floated and churned. The perseverance of the sea rose shows that despite its poor appearance it is strong. Therefore, it is not an ordinary rose which may be unable to survive in rough conditions.

The third stanza marks the onset of the second full sentence of the poem. The first line shows the effect the harsh environment has had on the rose by making it stunted in growth. The sea rose is flung by the tides of the sea on to the sand on the land, and with its small leaf and thin nature it becomes vulnerable to coastal strong winds on the beach that toss it and the crisp sand grains around with a lot of ease. The sea rose is contrasted with the sand which is brittle in nature.

The sea rose survives being buffeted by the winds which carry along with the beach sand. The sand is said to be driving the wind and the use of drives suggests that winds are fierce and strong, suggesting that the sand in the wind may also wear down the rose due to its abrasive nature. The sea rose is juxtaposed as victim of both the rushing sea waves and the harsh abrasive sand carried by the wind that tosses both the sand and the sea rose around. Despite the effects of these two elements the sea rose still survives with its leaf and meager petals which remain intact.

In the last stanza the poet wastes no words. She goes on with brevity of the language with which she started off by offering sharp descriptive words such as marred, harsh and meager. She goes on to compare the romantic poetry rose and the sea rose. The fragrance of the romantic/spice rose is a highly cherished aspect of the flower. The spice rose alludes to the traditional roses.

The scent of a rose is an essential part of it and at times roses offered by lovers may be preserved by being pressed between tissue paper sheets as a memorable thing, and the roses spice fragrance intensifies as it dries. This scent is even at times duplicated in toilet soaps and perfumes. Contrastingly, the sea rose is even more valuable with its acrid fragrance despite its haggard looks.

The scent that the sea rose bears did not come easy. Instead, the sea roses acrid fragrance is as a result of its hardening and survival. The theme of perseverance comes out strongly in showing how the sea rose has endured the tumultuous environment and emerged strong and valuable. The poet portrays that perseverance is not only through active struggle but it may be just by mere existence and despite the odds. The isolated sea rose and its solitude portray a theme of isolation.

This is actually not a typical rose and it is not sweet or pretty. The rose gets tossed halfway between the sand and sea by winds. Thinking of nature of the boundary between the land and the sea one can conclude that this is not the best site for a rose to grow. The poem is about nature and the rose-and it gets to explain how it survives, looks and lives in a not-so-conducive environment.

However, the rose may also be a metaphor of a person from an imagistic view. This person may be living a life that is out of the worlds norms or normal life. This would make such character sound like a non-conformist in society living on the borderline of two contrasting worlds represented by the sea and land with tumultuous forces on both sides. This person may be said to be non-traditional and non-conventional.

The whole poetic piece does not have a particular meter or rhyme. However, it has a great rhythm exemplified by you are flung on the sand/you are lifted/in the crisp sand/that drives in the wind. The poems verse is brief and full of meaning. The poem has an open form and makes use of free verse.

Notably, there is also an intentional repetition of the vowel  in line 8 drift, line 11lifted, line 12 in and crisp as well as line 13 wind. All these words fit into the description of the roses life in its environment. The repetition of a single vowel sound reinforces the connection that exists in the roses description.


 Hilda Doolittle (2004),. Sea Garden, Kessinger Publishing


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