Notes to Poem: Deodar Cedar Rosebud

Peter Y. Chou,

Deodar Cedar
Deodar Cedar is a large evergreen coniferous tree reaching 40-50 meters tall, with a trunk up to 3 meters diameter. It has a conic crown with level branches and drooping branchlets. The leaves are needle-like, mostly 2.5-5 cm long. The female cones are barrel-shaped, 7-13 cm long and 5-9 cm broad, and disintegrate when mature (in 12 months) to release the winged seeds. The male cones are 4-6 cm long, and shed their pollen in autumn. In Trees of Stanford, Ronald N. Bracewell located six deodar cedars on the south side of Meyer Library, and more can be seen on Serra Mall by the Graduate School of Business. One of a group on the south side of Burnham Pavilion on Serra Street has a marker dating it to 1915; its girth is nearly 14 feet. In the arboretum just north of the Mausoleum is an interestingly shaped giant dating to 1889.

But that's another story
This story was written as a poem "Sweetest Sacred Sound" (July 6, 2007) in Cecilia Woloch's Workshop: The Beauty of Error: Turning Mistakes into Poetry at the 31st Foothill College Writers' Conference, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills.

Focus, focus, focus
In Robert Bly's Stanford poetry workshop class (April 23, 2008), he told us that the prose poem is like a box of paragraph without line breaks. In this way, we may focus more on the object. "Don't go to yourself in prose poems. Make your mind stick to the object. Once you're true to your object, a lot of interesting things will come to you." In Kawazu Awase (1686), the haiku master Basho writes: "Go to the pine or bamboo if you want to learn about the pine or bamboo. Leave your ego behind, otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry comes naturally when you have become one with the object. When you plunge deep into the object, you'll see a hidden glimmering there." Rilke did this on Rodin's advice, went to the Paris Zoo and wrote his in-seeing "Panther" poem ("First Poem in Paris").

first and last word of Citizen Kane
Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941) is considered the greatest film by most cinema critics. The opening scene of the film shows the vast estate of Xanadu with its iron gates. The camera cuts in one of the palace's windows into a room where a light is shining. It dissolves into a snowy blizzard and we hear the word "Rosebud" uttered by the lips of a dying man's last breath. The snow-scene paperweight he was holding drops to the floor and smashes. Hence "rosebud" is the first word of the film Citizen Kane and the last word of "Citizen Kane" (Charles Foster Kane), the protagonist of Orson Welles's film.

Rose of Sharon
The Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) comes in many colors, especially white, lilac, and pink. It is the national flower of South Korea. Biblical scholars originally supposed this large, showy blossom was mentioned in the Song of Solomon, II.1: "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." But biogeographers now think Solomon's plant was a Rockrose that grows commonly in the Mideast. Such was also the conclusion drawn by Linnaeus, who originally classified H. syriacus in the 18th century. Most people in Israel assume that, the Sharon plain being on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Biblical passage refers to this flower. Robert Fludd believes that Solomon's Rose of Sharon (red) and Lily of the Valley (white) may be connected to the red and white tinctures of alchemy.

Rose Citations in the Bible and Dante
The Complete Concordance to the Bible: New King James Version
Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1983, pp. 824-825
A Concordance to the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri
Edited by Ernest Hatch Wilkins & Thomas Goddard Bergin
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1966, pp. 480-481

nine was the number for his beloved Beatrice
After Dante's introductory chapter of Vita Nuova (1290), he begins Chapter 2:
"Nine times already since my birth the heaven of light had circled back to almost the same point, when there appeared before my eyes the now glorious lady of my mind, who was called Beatrice... She appeared to me at about the beginning of her ninth year, and I first saw her near the end of my ninth year." The number 9 appears 22 times in the Vita Nuova, and Dante tells us in Chapter 29 that Beatrice died during the first hour of the 9th day of the month, and according to the Syrian calendar, she departed in the 9th month of the year. Since 3x3 is 9, "Beatrice was a 9, or a miracle, whose root is the miraculous Trinity itself." (Dante & Beatrice).

Celestial Rose of the saints and angels
Gustave Doré's engraving depicts
Dante's vision of the Empryean (Paradiso XXXI):
So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy
legion was shown to me-the host that Christ,
with His own blood, had taken as His bride.
The other host, which, flying, sees and sings
the glory of the One who draws its love,
and that goodness which granted it such glory,
just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment,
enters the flowers and, at another, turns
back to that labor which yields such sweet savor,
descended into that vast flower graced
with many petals, then again rose up
to the eternal dwelling of its love.
—Dante's Paradiso, XXXI.1-12 (translated by Allen Mandelbaum)

romance of the rose
Romance of the Rose is a medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision. The poem was written in two stages. The first 4058 lines, written by Guillaume de Lorris circa 1230, describe the attempts of a courtier to woo his beloved. Around 1275, Jean de Meun composed an additional 17,724 lines. Jean's discussion of love is considered more philosophical and encyclopedic, but also more misogynistic and bawdy. It is one of the most widely read works in France for three centuries, it survives in hundreds of illuminated manuscripts. Anthony Roe's Romance of the Rose (1997) surveys the history of the rose in literature, mythology, and philosophy

a dozen red roses for Valentine
Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) was a Christian martyr. Around 270 A.D. in Rome, Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage, fearing that married men would make inferior soldiers. Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, invited couples to come see him and marry in secret. Claudius, obviously not a romantic deep down inside, promptly told Valentine to renounce Christianity or face certain death. Valentine not only refused, but also tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity. Claudius was furious that he had Valentine clubbed and stoned, then beheaded on February 14, 270 A.D. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The oldest known valentine was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. According to Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year. A dozen roses for Valentine is a declaration of love. One dozen roses represents perfection and completeness. Since there are 12 hours on the clock, 12 months in a year, 12 signs in the Zodiac, giving a dozen roses to your beloved is saying "I'm thinking of you all the time."

opossum, creature of the night
The opossum is a nocturnal marsupial, most active at night. They sleep during the day in a den of a hollow tree or in an abandoned rodent burrow. When opossums are attacked, they will "play possum," pretending that they are dead; they remain still, do not blink, and their tongue hangs out. This act often makes the attacker lose interest in the opossum. What interested me in the opossum is its foraging of egg yolks in Mom's rose bed. I recall attending Robert Bly's Fairy Tale Workshop in San Francisco around 1990. When he asked us to explain the symbolism of egg yolks, none of us got it right. Finally Bly said that it symbolized the sun. Thus, the opossum, a creature of the night, sought out the Sun that shines in the day. That was my lesson in observing this midnight episode with my poet friend.

so many eyelids asleep
The image of rose petals as sleeping eyelids is from Rainer Marie Rilke.
In his last will & testament (Munzot, Oct. 27, 1925) Rilke composed this epitaph
that was carved on his gravestone in the churchyard of Raron, Switzerland:
Rose, oh reiner Widerspruch, Lust
Niemandes Sclaf zu sein unter soviel
Rose, oh pure contradiction, joy
of being No-one's sleep, under so many
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
Edited & translated by Stephen Mitchell,
Random House, New York, 1982, pp. 278-279, 343

in prayer, in fervor to awake
In Li-Young Lee's poem "Always A Rose"
from his first book Rose (1986), he writes (p. 38):
Always a rose,
in prayer and in fever,
in the sun and in the den.
Always that doomed, profane flower, that vertical flame
darkens my arrivals, announces my departures,
and sweetens my dying.

I've changed Lee's "fever" to "fervor" so the sleeping rose may awake.
It reminded me of Robert Bly's exercise on Kabir's "Friend— Wake Up!"

awake for the soul's journey to perform the Great Work
When I found an engraving of a rose in Alexander Roob's Alchemy & Mysticism (1996), it struck me how similar it was to the Deodar Cedar Rosebud in appearance. This inspired me to compose a web page on "The Rose in Alchemy". The "Great Work" refers to the alchemical process of enlightenment, where our finite ego discovers its true infinite eternal Self (Brahma, Buddha Nature, Christ Consciousness, Pure Mind, Supreme Ultimate, Tao). It is also known as Magnum opus, the most renowned work of an author, artist, or composer. Examples would be Dante's Commedia, Cervantes' Don Quixote, Goethe's Faust, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling. These works of art lift up the human spirit so we have a taste of the supernal.

celebrate in joy and dance
Robert Bly told the class to focus on the object when writing the prose poem, saying "Once you're true to your object, a lot of interesting things will come to you." I have tried to honor this Deodar Cedar Rosebud while writing about it. Seeing how concentric the petals are in this rosebud, I linked its centering to the soul, then to my alchemy books. When I found the Fludd engraving of "The rose gives the bees honey", I went to Emily Dickinson's Poem 1154 about the Rose and Bee. Her words of "Tint" and "process" led me to Emily's Letters #618 ("philosopher's stone") and #799 (Alchimy). From my web page "The Rose in Alchemy", I'm sharing my discovery of these "alchemical" letters. Together with re-reading of Dante's Vita Nuova and Paradiso XXXI, I feel like a Bee being fed honey by the Rose. What a blessing to be nourished by two great poets of the soul— Dante & Emily Dickinson, so I celebrate in joy and dance.

| Top of Page | Cedar Rosebud | Poems 2008 | Poems 2007 | Haikus 2008 |
| Poetry News | CPITS | Poetry & Power | A-Z Portals | Home |

© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (5-2-2008)