The Lily and The Rose

William Cowper, English (1731 - 1800)

Poems of John Clare


Poem

The nymph must lose her female friend
If more admired than she, -
But where will fierce contention end
If flowers can disagree?

Within the garden's peaceful scene
Appeared two lovely foes,
Aspiring to the rank of queen,
The Lily and the Rose.

The Rose soon reddened into rage,
And swelling with disdain,
Appealed to many a poet's page
To prove her right to reign.

The Lily's height bespoke command,
A fair imperial flower,
She seemed designed for Flora's hand,
The sceptre of her power.

This civil bickering and debate
The goddess chanced to hear,
And flew to save, ere yet too late,
The pride of the parterre.

Yours is, she said, the nobler hue,
And yours the statelier mien,
And till a third surpasses you,
Let each be deemed a queen.

Thus soothed and reconciled, each seeks
The fairest British fair,
The seat of empire is her cheeks,
They reign united there.

2013-24