At the end of the school year, the parents throw us a celebratory brunch with fresh omelets made on demand along with other treats. Beautiful flower arrangements adorn each table, which we can take home if we like. I have been photographing these flower arrangements over the years, and this year I actually did a series of shots as the flowers faded until there were only dried roses left.
How many poets have called on the symbolism of flowers to carry forward their meaning. Shakespeare’s Juliet wants her love with Romeo to bloom properly, but the canker of the feud will destroy the blossom ere its time. But even the comparison to a beautiful flower forebodes doom, for we all know how short a lease, to crib another Shakespearean phrase, a bloom has in life. Ophelia recites of a litany of flowers imbued with special meaning–“There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue/ for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it/ herb-grace o’Sundays: O you must wear your rue with/ a difference. There’s a daisy: I would give you/ some violets, but they withered all when my father/ died” (IV.v) and then goes off to die, sinking slowly into the water.
The Carpe Diem poets also looked to flowers to as metaphor for temporality, such as in Robert Herrick’s “The the Virgins, to make much of Time”:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
Old Time is still a flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying?
The Romantics imbue all of nature with a capital N and embrace flowers as a vessel of meaning for emotion, for beauty, for the divine. Wordsworth extols a field of daffodils as a route into the sublime. And one must not overlook Robert Burns’ “O my luve’s like a red, red, rose.” Love and roses go together according to modern-day advertising though one wonders why given the fragility of the flowers and their short-lived beauty.
Somehow, though we may wear a crown of flowers, the blossoms wear a mantle of meaning we impose upon them to mirror for us ourselves.
Here are a series of shots from years past and from this year.