First Published 1855, in Men and Women.

- All beautiful women in this poem elude the speaker.
- The speaker uses women and flowers interchangeably in the poem giving it a dreamlike quality.
- Like Chaucer in the ‘Romaunt of the Rose’ and Tennyson in ‘Maud’, the dramatic persona associates roses with fair women and a garden of roses symbolises a garden of love.
- ll. 6-10 act as two line introductions to the themes of each stanza.
- The dramatic persona is introduced as a dreamer: ‘I dream of a red-rose tree’. This is a conventional poetic pose – that the poet is a dreamer and poetry is a garden, poems themselves are beautiful women or flowers.
- The flowers are spoken to, or apostrophised: ‘Dear rose’
- The speaker seems to be disappointed in women or at least by having too high an expectation of women.
- This is one of the most allusive of Browning’s poems, relying on a reader’s knowledge of Eve in the final stanza, of the concept of the Virgin Mary as the ‘rose without a thorn’ and on an awareness of the Medieval French text ‘The Romaunce of the Rose’ and its influential imagery.
- William Morris said that this poem cannot be paraphrased because “there are so many exquisitely small and delicate turns of thought running through the music and along with it”
Points for consideration
- Are these women real women or the women of literature? Could they even be muses, personifying the art of writing poetry (Poesy)?
- What is the purpose of the three line, nine line stanza pattern?
- Think about how Browning presents women of the past, present and future.

Poems for comparison

- A Woman’s Last Word – derogatory undertones in how women are depicted
- A Toccata of Galuppi’s –a past which is abhorrent and appealing (note in particular, the Venetian woman whose head is compared to a flower)
- Love in a Life / Life in a Love – the attraction of what is out of reach, danger and cruelty of women
- A Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister – women as objects, seen from a male viewpoint

Key Themes:
Decay - how is decay used throughout the poem?
Past/Present/Future - What is the speakers perception of Love and its frequency?