Smelling of roses

My recently-rescued post about Euclid’s pons asinorum reminded me of a well-known quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in which our eponymous heroine (as part of her famous “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” speech) declares:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

This in turn reminded me of another rose-themed quote, whose provenance I was unsure about, namely:

A rose is a rose is a rose

I’m mostly familiar with this one by virtue of having come across its Latin translation (“rosa rosa rosa est est“) in one of the books from Henry Beard’s Latin for all occasions series (I’m not sure which one).  A swift bit of searching on my favourite free, online encyclopedia revealed that the original quote was from the poet Gertude Stein in her poem Sacred Emily.  In its original form it appears as “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” (apparently Rose is a character in the poem, which I’ve not yet had a chance to read), although apparently the version I quoted earlier was also used by Gertrude Stein.

According to the Wikipedia article, “In Stein’s view, the sentence expresses the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it”.  This is apparently the diametric opposite of Juliet’s view (I was going to say “Shakespeare’s view”, but it’s not necessarily true – or indeed (probably) necessarily not true – that he agreed with everything he made his characters say).  However, I think there is at least a grain of truth in both ideas.

The Wikipedia article also states (and I see no reason to disbelieve it, although it didn’t cite sources for these claims) that Stein’s quote was an inspiration for (the name and possibly the existence of) Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose and that Ernest Hemmingway once parodied the quote as “a stone is a stein is a rock is a boulder is a pebble.”  The article goes on to list quite a few other variations on the theme.

To finish, here’s another quote that mentions roses (but is otherwise pretty much unrelated to the foregoing discussion).  This one is from J. M. Barrie (the author of Peter Pan) and I can’t remember where I found it but I think it’s lovely:

God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.

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