I sent my love two roses…

I’ve always loved wild roses. The cultivated varieties rarely do anything for me, especially in garage forecourts, but wild roses are something else entirely. Walking around Westray and Papa Westray the wild roses are in bloom, Some have simple flowers, others have complex flowers with mutiple petals. All have a heavy scent. I can even smell them while cycling past, despite the breeze. In the garden of Holland farm on Papa Westray we spy these roses. They are utterly beautiful.

Wild Rose

This rose reminds me of one of my favourite poets, Colonel John Hay. He’s best known as a politician and statesman, beginning as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and then US Secretary of State under McKinley and Roosevelt. His poem The White Flag is my favourite:

The White Flag

I sent my love two roses, – one
As white as driven snow,
And one a blushing royal red,
A flaming Jacqueminot.

I meant to touch and test my fate;
That night I should divine,
The moment I should see my love,
If her true heart were mine.

For if she holds me dear, I said,
She’ll wear my blushing rose;
If not, she’ll wear my cold Lamarque,
As white as winter’s snows.

My heart sank when I met her: sure
I had been overbold,
For on her breast my pale rose lay
In virgin whiteness cold.

Yet with low words she greeted me,
With smiles divinely tender;
Upon her cheek the red rose dawned,
The white rose meant surrender.

Copyright 1897
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston

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