Plant, above my lifeless heart
Crimson roses, red as blood.
As if the love, pent there so long
Were pouring forth its flood.
Then, through them, my heart may tell,
Its Past of Love and Grief,
And I shall feel them grow from it,
And know a vague relief.
Through rotting shroud shall feel their roots,
And unto them myself shall grow,
And when I blossom at her feet,
She, on that day, shall know!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
“Rose Song” first appeared in The Rose of Flame and Other Poems of Love (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Written in rough ballad stanzas, the poem imagines (through extended metaphor) that by acting as compost for freshly-planted roses, the contents of the speaker’s heart might find a newer, perhaps greater, expression in the blooming of their buds, which it nourished. The following year, Aldrich wrote, in a letter responding to Emily Dickinson postmarked almost four years after her death, that “[a] life of patient suffering, such as I am sure yours must be, dear Miss Dickinson is a better poem in itself than we can any of us write, and I believe it is only through the gates of suffering, either mental or physical that we can pass into that tender sympathy with the griefs of all of mankind which it ought to be the ideal of every soul to attain.”