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999 rose

Symbols of Transformation CW 5

The following comments may be made on the imagery of this poem.

The rose is a symbol of the beloved.

So when the poet dreams that he and the rose are in the womb of nature, it means psychologically that he is still in the mother.

There he finds eternal germination and renewal, a potential life that has everything before it, containing in itself all possibilities of realization without his having to submit to the labour of giving them shape.

Plutarch records the same motif in the naive myth of Osiris and Isis mating in their mother’s womb.

Holderlin likewise feels that it is the enviable prerogative of the gods to enjoy everlasting infancy.

He says in “Hyperion’s Song of Fate”:

Fateless, like the sleeping

Infant, breathe the heavenly ones,

Chastely guarded

In modest bud;

Their spirits

Blossom eternally,

And the quiet eyes

Gaze out in placid

Eternal serenity.

This quotation shows what he means by heavenly bliss.

Holderlin was never able to forget this first and greatest happiness whose haunting presence estranged him from real life.

The motif of the twins in the mother’s womb is found in the African legend, recorded by Frobenius, of the Big Snake, which grew out of a little snake in a hollow tree (“stretching forth of the serpent”), and which devoured all human beings (devouring mother = death) until only one pregnant woman remained.

She dug a ditch, covered it with a stone, and there gave birth to twins who afterwards became dragon-killers.

The mating in the mother also occurs in the following West African legend:

“In the beginning, Obatala the Sky and Odudua the Earth, his wife, lay pressed close together in a calabash.”

Being “guarded in modest bud” is an image that is found in Plutarch, where it is said that the sun is born at dawn from a flower bud.

Brahma, too, comes out of a bud (cf. pi. xlvia), and in Assam a bud gave birth to the first human pair.


Scarcely had the ancient mountain tops

Sprouted from the waters, O earth,

And the first green islands, redolent

With young saplings, breathed delight

Through the May air over the ocean,

And the joyful eye of the sun-god

Looked down on his firstlings, the trees and flowers,

Laughing children of his youth, your offspring:

When, on the fairest of those islands,

Born after a warm night, in the dawn-light long ago,

Earth’s most beautiful child

Lay under clustering grapes. And the boy

Looked up to Father Helios, who knew him,

And tasting the sweet berries, he chose

The sacred vine for his nurse.

And soon he is grown; the beasts

Fear him, for he is other than they,

A Man. He is not like you and not

Like the father, for boldly the high

Soul of the father in him is united

With your joys and your sadness for always,

O earth. Rather would he resemble

Eternal nature, mother of gods, the terrible.

Therefore, O earth, his presumption

Drives him away from your breast, and your tender

Gifts are in vain; ever and ever too high

Does the proud heart beatl

Leaving the sweet meadow of his shores

Man must go out into flowerless waters,

And though his orchards shine like the starry night

With golden fruit, yet he digs

Caves for himself in the mountains and grubs in the pit

Far from the sacred ray of his father,

Faithless also to the sun-god, who

Loves not toilers and mocks at cares.

Ah! the birds of the wood breathe freer, and though

The breast of man more wildly and proudly heaves,

His arrogance turns to fear, and the delicate

Flowers of tranquillity bloom not for long. ~Carl Jung, CW 5, Para 619-620