Sign of the rose: Vaughan, Rilke, Celan, The

sign of the rose: Vaughan, Rilke, Celan, The

Sandbank, Shimon

What hallow’d solitary ground did bear

So rare a flower,

Within whose sacred leafs did lie

The fulness of the Deity.

Henry Vaughan, “The Night” (522)

Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy

of being No-one’s sleep under so many


R.M. Rilke, “Rose, oh pure contradiction”

(Selected Poetry 279)

A nothing

we were, are, shall

remain, flowering;

the nothing-, the

no one’s rose.

Paul Celan, “Psalm” (Poems 143)

NEARLY 300 YEARS separate Rilke’s rose from Vaughan’s flower; less than 40, Celan’s rose from Rilke’s. But while the poetic distance between the former two could not be greater, the one between the latter two is striking enough. And if the distinction between the Baroque flower and the Symbolist rose, though worth rethinking, easily falls into accepted patterns of poetic history, the way Celan’s rose differs from Rilke’s seems to call for further definition. It is my object to propose that Celan, both responding to and reacting against his immediate predecessor, goes back to, but inverts, his Baroque predecessor’s version of the poetic sign. It is in this inverted return that his postmodernism may be said to lie.

Why rose? And, if rose, why Vaughan? That the rose is ubiquitous in poetry goes without saying (the subject index of the British Library lists thousands of items). It also happens to be used by these three poets in ways that are mutually illuminating. That is also why I have preferred Vaughan-although his flower is not specified as a rose1-to many other, more obvious cases, notably that of Dante’s Paradiso, cantos 30-33. Dante’s use of the rose symbol is too complex to serve as a helpful counterpart to Rilke’s or Celan’s, although it must be borne in mind as the locus classicus of whatever a seventeenth-century poet would associate with the rose-and of our own thoughts about its structure as poetic symbol.

What seems clear about Vaughan’s flower in “The Night,” or elsewhere for that matter, is that it is above all part of God’s Liber naturae, and thus rests on God’s creating logos and bears his signature. The lines from “The Night” quoted in the opening of this essay are followed by lines that clearly point to such a concept of creation-creator relationship, though with an emphasis, peculiar to Vaughan, on an intimacy between God and nature that dangerously verges on divine immanence:

. . .his own living works did my Lord hold

And lodge alone;

-the flower being one of the “works” “lodged” by God and hence manifesting his “fulness.”

Semiologically, Vaughan’s flower, signifying God by being his creature, is the sort of sign that C. S. Peirce calls an “index.” In contrast to the arbitrary “symbol” (or sign “proper”), the index is a sign in which a causal, or more generally existential, relation connects signifier to signified. The signifier “flower,” being “caused” by God, signifies him “indexically.”

Vaughan’s flower reveals God “symbolically” as well. If the symbol is “an arbitrary rule for consciousness which connects the sign with what it stands for” (Marshall 273), there are several conventional rules at work here: the flower (or rather the rose) as the “Rosa Mystica” of Christian tradition, i.e. the Holy Virgin bearing “the fulness of the Deity”; the “sacred leafs” as the multiple divine agencies that make up Christ’s “fulness” (cf. Garner 115); the dualism of multiple leaves and single flower as that of multiple divine agencies and the one God.

But, despite this firm “indexical” and “symbolical” relation between flower and God, the section of the poem preceding the quoted lines suggests that Vaughan is using the flower symbol more ambiguously. If the flower shows God’s “invisible things,” as St. Paul puts it in the Epistle to the Romans, it does so, paradoxically, by masking them. For what is “The Night” about? It interprets Nicodemus’s coming to Jesus by night as man’s recognition of the great opportunity granted him to know God in spite of the dictum, “There shall no man see me, and live.” This opportunity is, of course, God’s Incarnation in Jesus, and it is contemplated by Vaughan in terms of an inherent paradox: the only way of knowing the divine is through its masking. The images preceding the flower in the poem-night, shrine, veil, and moon-are all variations on this paradox of Incarnation as “negative” cognition: Son as sun becomes Son as night-that-makes-sun-accessible. In this context, the flower becomes another variation on the same theme, an emblem, not only of reflected light, but also of the deliberate dimming of the light in order to make some sort of sight possible. The flower is the analogue of night, moon, or veil, not of day, sun or face: rather than being beautiful in itself, the flower makes beauty imaginable by way of contrast, paradoxically revealing it by concealing it.

The moon makes the sun accessible by reflection; the veil by sifting and muffling; the night by serving as foil. How does the flower fulfill the same paradoxical function? What is its veiling factor which, along with the revelatory elements we have mentioned, makes it a vehicle for knowing God?

The obvious answer is that the flower, although part of the Libri naturae and created by God, is by no means identical with him. Like all words we use for God, this word, to follow Aquinas, applies to him only metaphorically:

. . . our only words for God come from creatures . . . and so whatever we say of God and creatures is said in virtue of the relationship creatures bear to God as to the source and cause in which all their creaturely perfections pre-exist in a more excellent way. And this way of sharing a word lies somewhere between pure equivocation and straightforward univocalness. (Thomas Aquinas 225)

This “dialectical suspension between likeness and disparity” (Chenu 114) is the more obvious “veiling” element here. But there is another, and it has to do with the word “leafs.”

Vaughan connects “leafs” to the word “veil” he uses earlier in the poem by giving both the same adjective: “sacred.” Implicitly, the veiling element is thus extended to “leafs.” “Leaf” is a polysemous word, meaning both foliage and page. The pun brings together thing and text, that is, Libri naturae and holy scripture, whose interaction is a favorite theme of his. The further veiling element in the flower, therefore, beyond its creaturely status, is its reduction to the text of the poem.

This suggestion may be partly supported by the well-known distinction, in Aquinas as well as Dante, between literal meanings “obtained through the letter” and spiritual and superior meanings “obtained through the things signified by the letter” (Gilbert and Kuhn 149; emphasis added). Although in Aquinas and Dante, “things” refer to historical events and persons rather than to natural objects, their symbolic use applies also to biblical and sacramental objects such as water, wine or oil (Chenu 111-118), thus implying the superiority of such natural objects, qua symbols, over words. “There is some serious concern here,” to quote William Wimsatt and Cleanth Brooks on Aquinas, “about a natural and proper revelatory symbolism of objects (water, the sun,Jerusalem) as distinct from the mere symbolism of words and their metaphoric manipulation” (148). Words, including the words of poetry, thus become a veil that hides true being, whereas things reveal it. Dante speaks of his allegory as a veil with different degrees of thinness (Purgatorio VIII, 11.20-21), and Boccaccio uses the figure of a veil or sheath 24 times in his Genealogy of the Gods to signify “the obscuring cover of poetical form”( Gilbert and Kuhn 165) .

For a seventeenth-century poet like Vaughan, such topoi are further reinforced by an attachment to nature which, with all due reservations, clearly anticipates pre-romanticism. Although the dictum “Nature is a book superior to all books” will crystallize and affect poetics only in Rousseau’s time (Curtius 324-5), it is already implied in Vaughan’s conviction that nature is superior to man, that “man hath not so much wit as some stones have” (“Man” 477) .

The actual flower, therefore, is superior to man’s verbal expression of it. Human textualization is understood to be a cognitive medium that can reveal “the invisible things of him” only by reducing their revelation in nature to an inferior verbal version. The leaves (foliage) of the flower can reveal God only if translated into the leaves (pages) of the text. The written flower may be said to be twice removed from God: it is a veiled version of his veiled appearance in actual nature.

In spite of all this, however, the flower, for Vaughan, most certainly manifests God. It remains a strong indexical and symbolical manifestation of the radiance of a transcendent personal God, even though overshadowed by a deep consciousness of man’s cognitive limitations. It remains inseparable both from its being in the physical world and from its transcendent creator.

Receptive of God’s light, Vaughan’s flower is “broad-eyed” and awake (Works 399). To Vaughan, flowers that are “fast asleep” stand for the unelect (Pettet 114), and the poet himself, when weighed down by guilt and depression, becomes a “sully’d flowre” that “sleepes, and droops, and in his drowsie state leaves [him] a slave to passions” (Works 411). Not so Rilke’s rose: sleep is its very essence, the space that enacts its essential “contradiction.”

In the years separating Rilke from Vaughan, sleep had become a central poetic asset. Romanticism had inverted the relative value of consciousness and dream, and surrealism was celebrating sleep as the highest source of poetic activity. To Rilke, the rose was the natural emblem for sleep:

. . . that a petal comes open like an eyelid

and underneath are just more eyelids, nothing else,

closed, as though they had to be asleep

ten times deeper to shut down visionary power.

And this above all: that through these petals

light somehow has to pass.

(“The Bowl of Roses,”Fresh Beginnings 57)

The closed eyelids-in this early phase (1907) in the history of Rilke’s use of the rose symbol2-muffle or filter the light of outer reality, which seems to correspond to the dimming of the light implicitly caused by Vaughan’s flower leaves. There is a vast difference, however, between the function of filtering in the two cases: to Vaughan, it diminishes the transcendent to make it accessible to the human mind; to Rilke, it elevates the physical to the inwardly spiritual. This latter function is, to Rilke, that of the poet as the champion of what he calls Weltinnenraum, the transformer of reality into inwardness (Hamburger 32-34):

. . . transforming the outside world

and wind and rain and spring’s great patience

and guilt and restlessness and masquerading fate

and the darkening of the earth at evening

and even the clouds that change and flow and vanish,

and even the vague command of the distant stars

all changed to a handful of inwardness.

(“The Bowl of Roses” 59)

In “Rosen-Innere,” written a few months later, the pole of outer reality all but disappears. Traffic between outer reality and inwardness is still implied, but the poem suggests an asymmetry between a deictically present inwardness and a dimly speculated outer reality:

Where is the outside

of this inside? Over what pain

is this linn spread?

What sky is reflected

in the lake

of these open roses…

(Saemtliche Werke 1: 622; my translation)

Thus, the rose turns more and more inward and becomes an emblem of dreaming , with the poet as dreamer:

Sleep of a thousand rose-eyelids,

bright rose-sleep, I am your sleeper:

bright sleeper of your scents, deep

sleeper of your cool inwardness.

( “Heute will ich,” Saemtliche Werke 2: 418; my translation)

This was in 1914. Ten years later, in a cycle of 24 poems in French entitled “Les Roses,”3 many of the above motifs are taken up again, but self-containment, lack of outward reference, and inaccessibility become increasingly marked. Leaves as closed eyelids remain (no.7), but they also, as in Vaughan, become pages. Unlike Vaughan’s flower, however, no “fulness of the Deity” can be read in Rilke’s rose leaves. His rose-book becomes totally unreadable:

Je te vois, livre entrebaille,

qui contient tant de pages

de bonheur detaille

qu’on ne lira jamais. . .


(I see you, partly opened book,

containing so many pages

of detailed happiness

that one will never read . . .)

(my translation)

Or again:

Tout ce qui nous emeut, tu le partages.

Mais ce qui t’arrive, nous l’ignorons.

II faudrait etre cent papillons

pour lire toutes tes pages.


(You participate in everything that moves us.

We, however, are ignorant of what happens to you.

One would have to be a hundred butterflies

to read all your pages.) (my translation)

That is: if the rose-book is unreadable to us, we are not unreadable to the rose. It takes part in whatever moves us, but we know nothing of what happens to it. “Cimetiere,” a French prose-poem written a year later (October 1925), may explain what Rilke means by this:

Yen a-t-il d’arriere-gout de la vie dans ces tombes? Et les abeilles, trouvent-elles dans la bouche des fleurs un presque-mot qui se tait? O fleurs, prisonnieres de nos instincts de bon-heur, revenez-vous vers nous avec nos morts dans les veines? Comment echapper a notre emprise, fleurs? Comment ne pas etre nos fleurs? Est-ce de tons ses petales que la rose s’eloigne de nous? Veut-elle etre rose-seule, rien-querose? Sommeil de personne sous tant de paupieres? (Saemtliche Werke 2: 611)

The rose-or for that matter any natural object used symbolically-“takes part in whatever moves us,” in the sense that we make it take part in whatever moves us. We impose our emotions and concepts on it; we make it conform to our inwardness.4 But what is the rose beyond our philosophies? It wishes it were “nothing but a rose,” wishes to escape our hold. Ironically, this wish itself falls into the clutches of the poet’s insatiable symbol-making: the bare “to be only a rose, nothing but a rose” is immediately duplicated in an image: “No-one’s sleep under so many lids.” These last words (“Sommeil de personne sous tant de paupieres”) provide an accurate French version of the final words of Rilke’s epitaph, quoted at the opening of this essay-an epitaph he included in a will written in the very same month as “Cimetiere.”

What is the “contradiction” at the heart of this little poem, once described as “one of the greatest and most suggestive inventions that ever was given to a poet” (Holthusen 65)?5 Literally, it is the contradiction between multiple sleep and no sleeper. But, as we have seen, sleep for Rilke has to do with the poet’s activity, here underlined by the obvious link between “reiner” (pure) and the poet’s name Rainer, as well as by the implied homonym “Lider” (eyelids), which can be read as “Lieder” (songs). The contradiction seems to be between multiple poetry and absent poet.

The closed eyelids here are not lent the task of sifting external materials but rather serve to block them, a function that follows from the development we have seen in Rilke’s use of the rose. Poetry is no longer a transformation of the visible but is pure, nonderivative inwardness. At the same time, however, poetry is also severed from a mind that would “sleep” (or rather dream) it. The eyelids cover “No-one’s sleep.”

How is this to be understood? The simple answer is that the sleep is no-one’s because the poet will be dead when his lines, intended for his gravestone, are read. But by capitalizing “No-one,”fi the translator, Stephen Mitchell, seems to suggest that the pronoun is here substantiated to create a personified nothingness (see Holthusen 65). The poet’s songs, thus, would show the double negation of blocking reality and expressing nothingness. “Cimetiere” corroborates this from another angle: the sleeping rose has no sleeper because what it wishes is to escape our hold and be “rien-que-rose.”

I do not think Rilke is here propagating a philosophy of physical objectivity, which had been his concern earlier. He does not wish to let the actual rose itself speak, the way he once thought a tree should speak in a poem without the poet’s interference.’ Rather, given its long-standing metapoetic symbolism in Rilke, the rose seems to stand for the paradoxical status of poetry, and its closed eyelids, rather than having anything to do with the physical rose, seem to indicate a shutting out of the physical from poetry. Moreover, the homonym “Lider-Lieder” is a purely verbal transaction, consisting as it does of a metaphor (eyelid for leaf) plus the phonetic coupling of Lid and Lied. It therefore differs markedly from Vaughan’s implicit polysemy of “leaf” as foliage and as page: Vaughan connects nature with book, world with spirit; Rilke connects word with word and shuts the world out.

To be “rien-que-rose” is to be a word only, neither mimetic nor expressive. If Vaughan’s flower, despite the limitations of the human mind, strongly relates to both creation and creator, Rilke’s “songs” are divorced from both. His many eyelids hang in mid-air, pointing at nothing. The contradiction Rilke embodies in the rose is therefore that of Symbolist poetry: of a system of multiple signs meant to signify nothing, signifiers made independent of their signifieds. Another flower, that of Mallarme’s famed lines from Crise de Vers, is an earlier version of the same contradiction:

I say: a Flower ! and, out of the oblivion to which my voice consigns any outline, being something other than known petal-cups, musically rises, an actual and sweet idea, the one absent from all bouquets. (Mallarme 47)

Mallarme’s saying of “flower” both banishes (“consigns to oblivion” ) the physical world (“any outline”) and leads to nothing that can be named positively. What it gives rise to, though referred to as “an actual and sweet idea,” can ultimately be described only in negative terms: “something other than,” “absent from.” The same seems to hold for Rilke’s rose.

Semiologically, Rilke’s rose is Peirce’s “symbol,” though the rule connecting it with its meaning (poetry) is much narrower than in Vaughan, resting not on a widely accepted convention but mainly on a usage established by Rilke himself in the course of his career. As a metapoetic poem, however, the epitaph not only embodies Rilke’s concept of the poetic sign, but also comments on it; indeed it expounds the structure of the poetic sign as he understands it. And what it expounds is a half-sign, a signifier that has banished both physical and mental signifieds (eyelids both closed to reality and sleeping no one’s sleep) and become completely opaque and silent. Rilke’s Lider/Liedershut out reality to contemplate nothing.

The ultimate silence of Rilke’s rose is not outside the rich tradition of rose symbolism. Silence or secrecy has been one of its longstanding connotations, from Gregory Nazianzen ( Fletcher 63) to Remy de Gourmont ( Seward 75). The Latin “sub rosa,” the German “unter der Rose,”8 and the English “under the rose” all mean “privately, in secret,” and may have to do with Rilke’s poem, which locates the silence of the rose “under so many lids.”

Paul Celan’s library included a number of books on roses (Felstiner 96), and a considerable number of roses appear in his poems, showing a progression from the sentimental to the disruptive and negative (Winkler, passim). His “Psalm,” included in the collection Die Niemandsrose of 1963, is often regarded as directly addressing Rilke’s epitaph (Heinz-Mohr and Sommer 201). In Celan’s poem, the Rilkean rose’s “no-one’s sleep” is extended to cover the entire rose, becoming “no one’s rose” and even “the nothing-rose.”

To understand this implicit dialogue with Rilke, we must keep in mind Celan’s attitude to the Symbolist concept of poetry present in Rilke. In his longest poem, “Engfuhrung” (“The Straitening”) of 1958, Celan clearly rejects the “demixed nights” and geometric schemata of poesie pure, that leave out the “smoke soul” of extermination camp reality (Poems 125). Two years later, in “The Meridian,” his Buchner Prize Speech , he implicitly rejects the suggestion to “think Mallarme . . . through to the end,” i.e. to “take art for granted, for absolutely given” (Collected Prose 43-4). The Germanist Gerhart Baumann, in a memoir on Celan, recounts how exceedingly upset Celan was when an article in the periodical Poetica compared his use of the “absolute metaphor” to Mallarme’s (Baumann 83-85). Mandelstam, as Baumann suggests, may have played an important part in his rejection of the Symbolist “consigning to oblivion” of reality (see Broda) .

The burning need to remember and bear witness to the horrors he had seen, cannot be said, however, to have resulted in a simple return to mimesis. Quoting his words, “Reality is not simply there; it must be searched and won” (Collected Prose 16), Winfried Menninghaus argues: “Neither ethereal evaporization nor mere reproduction of a presupposed reality is what his language aims at, but the discovery of a reality, either not yet existing, or not yet perceived” (23; my translation) .

I would like to stress the words “his language”: that Celan believed language should “search and win” reality connects him, as has often been shown, both to Jewish mysticism and to Heidegger’s concept of language as the “House of Being.” Two Kabbalistic and/or Heideggerian elements are particularly relevant to “Psalm.” To see them, let us go back to the five “No one”s (“Niemand”) and the two “Nothing”s (“Nichts”) that appear in the poem. Unlike Rilke’s single “Niemand,” whose capitalization is ambiguous,9 Celan’s “niemand” undergoes a process of capitalization in front of our very eyes, turning from lower case pronoun (it is capitalized, but apparently only because it stands at the beginning of a sentence) to capitalized noun, “baffling all understanding by its name that negates all names” (Killy 59):

Niemand knetet uns wieder aus Erde und Lehm,

niemand bespricht unsern Staub.


Gelobt seist du, Niemand.

(No one moulds us again out of earth and clay,

no one conjures our dust.

No one.

Praised be your name, No one.) 10

This verbal device”11 embodies, under an almost playful facade, two elements that are central, though in very different senses, to both Kabbalah and Heidegger: the disclosing of being through language and nothingness as the basis for being. I will not even attempt to go into the complexities of these two great paradoxes, 12 but will merely suggest that in their terms “Psalm” may be paraphrased as follows: both God and we are dead; nobody can revive us, nobody cares for us; but language can perform the miracle of recreating being, both our own and God’s, by creating, in song, a new perspective from which it can be seen as living.13 Thus, nothingness can blossom into being.

This is where the rose enters the picture: the nothingness that establishes being through language is “the Nothing-, the / Noone’s rose” that flowers “against”14 God. A most likely source for this association of the rose with the transformation from nothingness to being is Heidegger’s extended commentary on two lines by the seventeenth-century mystical poet Angelus Silesius15:

Die Ros ist ohn Warum; sie Bluhet, weil sie bluhet,

Sie acht nicht ihrer selbst, fragt nicht, ob man sie siehet.

(The rose is without why; it flowers because it flowers,

It heeds not itself, does not ask whether it is seen.)

After a long discussion of the difference, in these lines, between “why” and “because,” Heidegger says:

Angelus Silesius says: “it flowers because it flowers.” This says nothing in fact; for it is peculiar to “because” to bring something forward which we understand to be a reason for that which must be given a reason (als Grund fur das zu Begrundende) But “it flowers because it flowers,” seemingly saying nothing, actually says everything, i.e. everything that must be said here, in the manner of not-saying peculiar to it. The “because” seems to say nothing, seems empty, and yet it says the fulness of that which can be said, on the level of thinking of this poet, about the reason and the “why.” (Der Satz vom Grund 79-80; my translation) Celan’s rose, too, “flowers because it flowers,” because on his own “level of thinking,” the reason for the transformation of death into life is equally mysterious, a miraculous leap from emptiness to fullness, expressible only in terms of tautology.

The flowering rose refers to the plural speakers of the poem, i.e., to the dead of the Holocaust, and its relation to them can be said to be that of the conventional “symbol”: the rose is an image for the people of Israel both in the Bible’6 and in Jewish mysticism,l7 while the “crown,”ls “crimson word” and “thorn” of the last stanza clearly refer to Christ’s passion.l9 Thus, the speakers, flowering towards God and singing over the thorn, are the martyred Jews, dying in the camps while singing their psalms and hosannas, as in “The Straitening” (Poems 125).

Bearing in mind the Heideggerian elements we have touched on, however, the relation between signifier and signified becomes more complex. The verbal transformation of “niemand” from “no one” to the substantiated “No one,” or from nothingness to being, is projected from God (stanza 1) to his people (stanza 2), who, as “the No one’s rose,” share the same metamorphosis. Thus, the signifier “rose” not only designates the dead Jewish people, but creates a perspective from which they can be seen to be brought back to life. Here, as with Heidegger, signifying is “not just a formal relation of sign to signified . . . It is the ontological foundation for the existence of every actual entity” (Marshall 282).

We are back, in a sense, to Peirce’s “index,” the existential relation between signifier and signified that we found in Vaughan. But, in diametrical opposition to Vaughan’s “index,” Celan’s signified does not cause its signifier, but is “caused” bv it. The rose is not a creature of logos, but a word which, in a very qualified sense of course, creates being.

Our three poets, in their use of the rose, thus form a triangle whose angles can be described as follows:

1 ) Vaughan-Indexical sign I: signifier created by signified.

2) Rilke-Half sign: signifier cut off from signified.

3) Celan-Indexical sign II: signifier “creates” signified.

Celan’s return to the signified is a rebuttal of the glorious isolation of the signifier in Symbolist poetry. The return to the indexical type of sign, moreover, is a return to a quasi-existential contact between signifier and signified that gives the sign a particularly strong motivation. But it is a return across modernism, across whatever modernism entails. Thus, it is a return that must necessarily relate to the reversal of the language-being relationship one associates with names such as Mallarme or Heidegger-hence the inverted structure of Celan’s indexical sign in comparison to Vaughan’s. Celan’s means of following his strong mimetic impulse as a witness of horror-and of overcoming Adorno’s saying on the impossibility of poetry after Auschwitz-is to make language recreate reality, that is, to establish a perspective from which it can be seen as being. It is in this sense that his words, “Reality is not simply there, it must be searched and won,” can be understood.

If this sounds too much like what poetry is always supposed to be-centripetal, intransitive etc.-let me call to mind, in conclusion, a mostly forgotten essay by John Crowe Ransom, “Poetry: A Note in Ontology.” Ransom’s subject is Vaughan’s century, not Celan’s, and what he finds in the Metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century, in contrast to the prolix predictability of the nineteenth century, is “miraculism.” “There is a miraculism or supernaturalism in a metaphorical assertion,” he says, “if we are ready to mean what we say, or believe what we hear . . . the miraculism which produces the humblest conceit is the same miraculism which supplies to religions their substantive content . . . It is the poet and nobody else who gives to the God a nature, a form, faculties, and a history” (138). And again: “the conceit is a metaphor if the metaphor is meant; that is, if it is developed so literally that it must be meant, or predicated so baldly that nothing else can be meant” (136).

Celan’s reality is meant, and this is why he is a miraculist: like the Metaphysicals, unlike the moderns.

1 Vaughan’s celestial flower is the rose (cf. “Peace,” Works 430), which certainly applies to the “rare flower” of “The Night” as well. I would suggest that Vaughan has “flower” rather than “rose” here simply for the sake of the rhyme.

2 For a different and far more extensive account of Rilke’s use of the rose symbol, see Boesch. I owe Boesch many of my references to roses in Rilke.

3 They were all written in September 1924, except for nos. 20 and 24, written in June and August of 1926 (“Les Roses,” Saemliche Werke2:575-584).

4 For a similar sentiment, see Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus Part 2, no.14 (Saemtliche Werke 1: 760) and his “Requiem fur eine Freundin” (1: 645).

5 For the incredible amount of critical attention paid to this tiny poem, see Wolff, whose entire book is devoted to it.

6 In the original, the capitalization of “Niemand” can be explained by the word’s position at the beginning of the line, but in an earlier draft “niemand” was not capitalized (Wolff 22).

7 See the remark he made to Elisabeth von Schmidt-Pauli, as quoted in Peters 102. For Kate Hamburger’s insistence that the epitaph is a “Dinggedicht” and the author’s objection, see Wolff 96-7.

8 For many examples of the use of this idiom in German see Grimm’s dictionary, vol.8 (1893 ed) pp. 1179-1180.

9 See above, note 6.

10 I have capitalized this last “No one,” which Hamburger for some reason does not. 11 Kafka too uses it in his “Excursion into the Mountains” (Kafka 383) . 12 They have often been discussed, both in themselves and with reference to Celan. For clear accounts of language versus being in Heidegger, see Rosenfeld, Bruns, and Biemel; for language in Kabbalah and Celan, see Wolosky; for nothingness and being in Heidegger, see Roubiczek 131; for the same in the Kabbalah, see Dan.

13 I am here following Max Black’s discussion of the creativity of metaphors, pp.39-40.

14 Hamburger has towards for “entgegen,” but “against is the more immediate meaning of this reference to Broda p. 220, note d.

15 I owe this reference to Broda p. 220, note 6.

16 See Hosea 14.5: “[Israel] shall grow as the lily,” which in Luther’s translation is rendered as “[Israel] soil bif hen wie eine Rose.”

17 For a detailed account of the parallelisms with the kabbalistic symbolism of the Shekhina, see Schulze pp. 21-36. 18 Hamburger has “corolla” for the German “Krone.

19 “The flower of joy has also symbolized sorrow. Fading quickly, it has been identified with death and with the evanescence of earthly beauties. Surrounded by thorns, it has been identified with pain and with the ambivalence involved in mortal love and in most mortal values. Even as a religious symbol of eternal promise, it has often been related to the thorns of anguish that surround its glory and the blood of martyrs shed for its sake” (Seward 6). Cf. Edith Sitwell’s The Canticle of the Rose “The Rose upon the wall / Cries-‘I am the voice of Fire: / And in me grows / The pomegranate splendour of Death, the ruby, garnet, almandine / Dews: Christ’s wounds in me shine (Sitwell 377).

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. Selected Philosophical Writings. Selec. and trans. Timothy McDermott. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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