A Bed Of Roses
John Heywood Quote
Rejoice! If you live in a bed of roses. It means you are a connoisseur of comfort. You enjoy the trappings of a pampered existence and know not the meaning of lamentation lived through a perished petal life that is anything but a bed of roses.
The Rose at The Head of The Floral Empire
The rose is royalty represented as the monarchal head of the floral empire. It is widely known as both the king and queen of flowers with a history seeped in symbolism dating back to ancient Greece and before. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love who was heartbroken at the death of Adonis and forever associated with the white rose turned red by the blood of love.
From the blood drained Adonis to Dante's mystic rose the symbolism of this majestic flower has captured the imagination of a world enthralled by its message of love and fascinated by its regal lore.
Royal wars have been fought using floral symbolism where the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster both laid claim to the English throne during 33 years of a blood drenched (civil) war of the roses in the 15th century.
Away from the battlefield, the rose evokes a meaning of the natural order encompassing the full mystery of romance. It is indeed the metaphorical rose that turns our thoughts to a surreal notion that love will never fade.
The sweet smelling soft blossomed rose is now synonymous with the feel-good factor of love and a life well lived. The red rose is associated with passionate romance and is the most gifted flower men use to woo the ladies. The white rose is more conservatively associated with pure unconditional love and affection or innocence in the face of a world of darkness.
From such strong symbolism it is but a short step to indulge in the metaphor of a bed of roses.
Life is a Bed of Roses
There are many variations to this popular idiom. The phrase "life is a bed of roses" is an extended metaphor that induces a positive philosophy through a focussed lens of expression saying that life is great. This is a popular view of the eternal optimist.
Rose Tinted Glasses
The optimist is often described as a person who views life through rose-tinted glasses. This phrase uses the feel-good factor of the rose to promote a viewpoint from where the metaphor conveys a feeling of positivity towards any subject matter under discussion.
The person who views life though rose-tinted glasses can be over optimistic by always trying to see the bright side of all situations leaving them liable to be blind-sided by positivity.
The Origins Of A Bed Of Roses
The etymology of the idiom "a bed of roses" has a long history dating back two millennia. Although it has been a common saying in European literature, many internet academics contradict each other on its origins. It was the 13th century epic poem called Le Roman de la Rose, known as the French Iliad, penned in 1230 by Guillaume de Lorris, that many lay claim as the first known use of "a bed of roses".
However, the Romans got there first a thousand years earlier.
Earliest known origins of "a bed of roses" was written by Seneca in his epistles in the 1st Century A.D. In 1576, Philippe de Mornay, translated the Seneca epistle to French. This was later translated to English by Edward Aggas revealing the intriguing line: "Certainly no man learneth how in time of néed to lye upon a bed of Roses, but rather how he may strengthen him self against torments".
English Language Origins of A Bed Of Roses
Whilst the line "a bed of roses" can be traced to ancient Rome courtesy of Seneca, the subsequent translation by Edward Aggas was not the first instance of this idiom to appear in the English language. That accolade rests with the English writer John Heywood who in 1550 wrote a poem called "A Rose and a Nettill" which was published in his book An Hundred Epigrammes.
Heywood's poem contained the line: "Spiyng a nettill greene (as Themeraude) spred, In a bed of roses lyke the Rubie red" and preceded the Edward Aggas translation by a quarter of a century.
According to many sources on the internet, the English language origin of a bed of roses flowed from the pen of Christopher Marlowe whose poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" contained the line: "And I will make thee beds of roses, And a thousand fragrant posies".
There is however a problem with this theory. Marlowe was born in 1564, some 14 years after the publication of Heywood's poem. On a side note, life was not necessarily a bed of roses for Marlowe as he died a violent death on the business end of a dagger through his eye in 1593. Consequently, his poem was published posthumously in 1599, nearly half a century after John Heywoods poem A Rose and a Nettill.
Not A Bed of Roses
The idiom "not a bed of roses" is the metaphorical antonym of the original expression that casts a negative shade on any given situation. It is not hard to imagine the furrowed brow of the perpetual pessimist coming up with the phrase "life is not a bed of roses", whilst simultaneously abandoning all hope of happiness.
Many historical luminaries have uttered this famous expression. The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson was at pains to explain:
"For marriage is like life in this — that it is a field of battle, and not a bed of roses".
The revolutionary and former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, famously used a variation of this quote when he said:
"A revolution is not a trail of roses.… A revolution is a fight to the death between the future and the past".
In literature, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Dave Barry, described the unforgiving harsh environment for frontier settlers with this comment:
"But Nebraska was not always a bed of roses". Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío got straight to the point with this phrase as he self declared:
"I am not on a bed of roses".
A Bed Of Roses in Popular Culture
In music, "Bed of Roses" was the name for a popular 1993 Bon Jovi song. Erstwhile in 1976, the Joan Baez song Gulf Winds used the line: "When you're lying in a bed of roses". Fast forward to 1996 and Patti Smith included a poem called "A Bed of Roses" in her book called The Coral Sea.
The Proverbial Bed Of Roses
A life well lived is not always the proverbial bed of roses that most people imagine. We all live a thorny existence whilst striving to out-rat the rodent wheel of life. The fragrant blossom of temptation is a veil of red or white desire blandished with the Edenic promise of a place in the bed of roses we deserve. Ultimately, we choose.
Article By: Michael Joseph Farrelly
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