A Poem by William Cowper (1731-1800)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2011
Type of Work and Publication Year
......."The Lily and the Rose," by William Cowper (pronounced KOO per), is a lyric poem centering on two flowers that vie to be queen of the garden. Joseph Johnson first published the poem in London in 1782 in a collection entitled Poems by William Cowper of the Inner Temple, Esq.
an ornamental garden, a lily and a rose are rivals. The rose reddens with
rage and contempt for her adversary, and she seeks the approval of poets
as queen of the garden. The lily, tall and commanding, has the very look
of royalty and seems made for the hand of Flora, the goddess of flowers
in Roman mythology.
The nymph must lose her female
The Rose soon redden'd into
The civil bick'ring and debate
Yours is, she said, the nobler
Thus, sooth'd and reconcil'd,
Ancient Roman goddess of flowers.
painters, sculptors, opera stars, ballerinas, fashion designers, athletes,
magicians, army generals, and others in the limelight sometimes become
bitter rivals of accomplished competitors. Examples were the intense rivalries
between heavyweight boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the 1970s; between
British General Bernard Law Montgomery and the Allied commander, General
Dwight D. Eisenhower, during World War II; and the ideological rivalry
between writer and political commentator William F. Buckley, a conservative,
and his liberal counterpart. Gore Vidal, between 1968 and 2008 (when Buckley
died). Sometimes rivalries develop between two sports teams, between two
countries, and between one system of knowledge and another—science and
religion, for example.
Diplomacy and Peacemaking
.......When the Roman goddess of flowers intervenes, she uses skillful diplomacy to pacify the lily and the rose, noting that they each have outstanding qualities and therefore can each become queen of the garden.
.......The rhyme scheme of the poem is abab. The first stanza demonstrates the pattern.
The nymph must lose her female friend,
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.
The nymph must lose her female friend (line 1)Metaphor
She [the lily] seem'd designed for Flora's hand,Metonymy
Appeal'd to many a poet's page (line 11)Personification
The rose and the lily are compared to human beings throughout the poem.Study Questions and Writing Topics