A Rosy Coincidence.
By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Oct 21 2019 02:40PM
Do you like visiting second hand book shops as much as I do; I love it even if I do not have a particular book in mind except, of course, a different rose book. This time my visit was unusual; I wanted a specific book, a copy of the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I had always thought that his poem 'Maud', which inspired my favourite Waterhouse painting, began with the line 'Come into the garden, Maud' and ended after a romantic message with the line 'And blossom in purple and red'. How wrong was I? As some of the more literate readers among you will know this is only a very small vignette of a much larger story.
'The Soul of the Rose' (1908) John William Waterhouse.
Strangely I had discovered this previously unkown to me fact when I was researching 'The Soul of the Rose' by Waterhouse. I needed to find out more about the painting because it and others by Waterhouse feature on my website and will also be included in the anthology of rose stories 'The Soul of the Rose' which I am collating. I always knew that it had been inspired by the line from Maud ' And the soul of the rose went into my blood,' just as other of his paintings had been inspired by the poetry of Shakespeare, Keats and Herrick but little realised the length of the poem, so I felt the need to read the whole poem.
One of two paintings by J.W. Waterhouse entitled 'Gather Ye Rosebuds
while Ye May' (1909) and inspired by the line from 'To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time'
by Robert Herrick.
I looked on line for a copy of Tennyson's poems but they all seemed glossy, new reproductions. These are not my style; I like the old and tactile with an interesting front cover if possible. What a good excuse to go to my favourite book shop where I may be lucky enough to find a gem. The shop did not let me down, I found what I wanted; not Victorian as I would have liked but very pretty and inexpensive, first published in 1954 and including the whole of 'Maud' together with some of his other poems. He was a prolific writer so I had to make sure that Maud was in the book I bought.
A bargain at £4.00 and just what I needed.
Job done but after a decent lunch and an invigorating walk by the river the antique warehouse beckoned, which inadvertently triggered this story. One of the first things which caught my eye was a book 'Pre-Raphaelite Portraits' and on opening I found a sketch by Rossetti entitled "Maud" 1855 of Tennyson reading 'Maud'. He had apparently drawn it while Tennyson was reading the poem at the house of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. What a coincidence! It is true; I have a witness.
The second painting by J.W. Waterhouse inspired by the line from John Herrick's poem.
Within the book there are also sketches of several of the beautiful models featured in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. John William Waterhouse, who was born at the end of the Pre-Raphaelite era, was known in his later paintings to embrace the Pre-Raphaelite style. I don't believe the model in 'The Soul of the Rose' is known by name but to me she looks very much like Alexa Wilding who modelled for Rossetti fifty years before. Looking at some of Rossetti's work there is definitely a similarity between the graceful woman in Waterhouse's painting and Rossetti's auburn haired model.
A painting/sketch (1879) of Alexa Wilding by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
After reading the many pages of the poem and looking once again at my favourite Waterhouse paintings I cannot believe how my love of roses has forged this particular link between art and literature; it is inspirational for me. My research into the rose brings me joy and satisfaction daily. I will definitely leave the cultivation to others and focus on the intriguing stories that I have yet to discover. The rose is mentioned frequently through Tennyson's 'Maud' and is featured in a number of Waterhouse's paintings. They must, like me, have wanted to celebrate the rose.
Another painting by J.W. Waterhouse that features roses, 'The Shrine' 1895
Welcome to my blog
Welcome to my world of roses. How fortunate I am to be surrounded by the queen of flowers!
Over the years I have collected many ‘rosy’ souvenirs and am now surrounded by rosy pictures, china, fabrics and my beautiful books.
I hope you will wish to follow me on a rosy journey and contribute with your thoughts and ideas. I enjoy growing roses but I also appreciate the smell of a real rose potpourri, the glimpse of a painting of roses, the discovery of a different rose cup and saucer or piece of fabric or to see a wild rose nestling in the hedgerow.
I will share with you my rose stories and will endeavour to answer any queries you may have regarding this amazing flower.
Until then. . . .. . . .