Ronsard’s Rose

Ronsard's Rose copy_edited-10
Ronsard’s Rose

It is rare to find a line of poetry which can thrive on a stand-alone basis, like a red rose stem, secateured from the bush and vased. Here’s one:

Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de mai la rose…

Thankfully, you don’t need a degree in French to grasp these words from Pierre de Ronsard’s 1578 sonnet. Ronsard’s language is simple and direct, as well as being sensually poetic.

Try reading this opening line out loud (yes, it really does “open”, as it extends languorously, narcotically towards the final exhalation of the word “rose“). Comme on voit – Just as you see – sur la branche –  appearing on the stem – au mois de mai – in the month of May – la rose – the rose.

I’ve a confession: I’ve done French Medieval poetry. I was young, impressionable and, yes, I inhaled. I was a regular user for 3 years and have never quite kicked the habit.

My craving isn’t helped by the coincidence that my wife’s paternal grandfather wrote the definitive Ronsard biography of the 20th century (Blue Plaque moment: DB Wyndham Lewis).

And for good measure, Marie Dupin, Ronsard’s rosy-cheeked paramour, lived bang next door to where my mother-in-law and my wife’s stepfather have lived for 25 years – at St. Nicolas de Bourgueil in the Loire Valley.

So anyone would think that it’s sailing-off-into-the-sunset time or me and my bees, serenaded by Ronsard and garlanded with red roses. Cue violins – and tie a pink bow on it !

Not quite. Understandably, people tend to believe that honeybees love roses. In fact, roses barely quicken their pulses. That’s because modern hybrid double roses have layers of petals which make the nectaries inaccessible for honeybees. Here’s a clue: when did you ever see “Rose Honey” for sale ?

Ronsard’s rose only seduces the petal-folds of human imagination. For bees, it holds no allure. So if you wish to enchant your beloved, heed the bees. Scorn the spray of jet-lagged, clichéd roses. Prefer a pure and ancient love potion.

Honey. The distillation of a thousand flowers. Creation’s exquisite kiss.

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