“A rose is a rose is a rose,” wrote Gertrude Stein in her 1913 poem Sacred Emily.
Following World War I, Stein’s apartment home on the Left Bank of Paris was the central meeting-place for an astonishing assembly of writers and artists, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Paul Bowles, and Henri Matisse. The imperious Stein, a self-described “genius,” considered herself both mentor and critic to this talented flock—many of whom are now considered part of the early-Twentieth Century’s so-called “Lost Generation.”
However, while so many of her gifted “protégés” went on to make their lasting artistic marks, Stein’s own work did not. Her “rhythmical essays” and ventures into stream-of-consciousness experimental writings are—for me, anyway, and I daresay most modern readers—onerous, exasperating, oft nonsensical, and largely unreadable.
The rose quote is probably the only line from her literary output now remembered. And it is, quite obviously, a reworking of Shakespeare’s dialogue from Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Nevertheless, the thought is perfectly correct—named or nameless, when all is said and done, things are what they are, nothing more or less. Whether we call it a redbird or cardinal, that jaunty feathered dandy in the bright scarlet cloak is still a delightful and pretty bird. And a rose—whether of aristocratic pedigree and blooming in a manor’s formal gardens, or found growing wild beside a meadow pond where cattails fringe and dragonflies dart in the sunlight—is still a rose…deliciously scented and more lovely than words can tell.
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NOTE: This is a sort of field test posting of an updated design for Riverdaze. You'll find a similar but different header photo, new page colors and font, and pretty much the same layout. But, I hope, far larger and more readable text! Some of the old elements are still missing to be redone in the next day or two; others won't return. Previous posts and pix now don't fit correctly and may, or may not, prove impossible to fix. We'll see. However, I really do want to know your opinion, particularly whether or not there are problems. Please tell me what you think.