The Thomas Moore poem that gives this post its name has lent its melancholia to many a song and story to follow it in the years since Moore first honed the image into such an iconic form in 1805. He wasn’t the first to recognize the symbolic substance of decaying, wilting blossoms at the end of the growing season, or to apply it to tales of longing and sorrow, not by many long and mournful years. And the idea is so ready and apt that I can only assume there will be endless instances of such fading bloom representing the grief and sadness of life.
When I see real roses at the end of summer, though, I tend to see another kind of meaning in them myself. For what could stand better as an emblem of perseverance and strength than a fragile, delicate tissue of a flower that clings boldly to life when all of its companions have given up the ghost, when the elements conspire to kill it, when all of the art of Nature dictates that it should not be able to survive? Is there an image more fitting for resilience and bravery and the hope of beating all odds? Certainly there are few representatives more perfectly suited that appear in as beautiful a guise as the rose.
The idea of being that kind of a last rose of summer appeals to me. I would like to defy the expectations of the world that I should cower in the face of death and its precedent cruel disintegration, and instead age gracefully into an ever stronger, wiser and more beautiful being. This is impossible if I depend wholly on myself and my own resources. But having chosen to surround myself with the generous gardeners whose kind tending can nourish and enrich me along the way, I think I might have a chance of flowering over time, too.