Is there a rose in the book The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco?
January 2, 2005 10:17 PM   Subscribe

In the book The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, is there a rose in the book? I think I might have missed that reference. What name and what rose is the title referring to?
posted by timyang to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
The book's title comes from the last line of the book, stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus (the rose remains fresh in name only, and we have only the name).

In Eco's own words:
Since the publication of The Name of the Rose I have received a number of letters from readers who want to know the meaning of the final Latin hexameter, and why this hexameter inspired the book's title. I answer that the verse is from De contemptu mundi by Bernard of Morlay, a twelfth-century Benedictine, whose poem is a variation on the "ubi sunt" theme (most familiar in Villon's later "Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan"). But to the usual topos (the great of yesteryear, the once-famous cities, the lovely princesses: everything disappears into the void), Bernard adds that all these departed things leave (only, or at least) pure names behind them. I remember that Abelard used the example of the sentence "Nulla rosa est" to demonstrate how language can speak of both the nonexistent and the destroyed. And having said this, I leave the reader to arrive at his own conclusions.
Elsewhere, he says seemed like a good title to me because it was generic, and because in the course of the history of mysticism and literature, the rose had taken on so many different meanings, often contradictory ones, that I hoped it would not lend itself to one-sided interpretations.

But it was pointless: everyone tried to find a precise meaning and many saw in it a reference to Shakespeare's "A rose by any other name," which means exactly the opposite of what [Morlay] intended.
posted by jimfl at 10:38 PM on January 2, 2005

The Rosy Cross.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:38 PM on January 2, 2005

Or, you know, not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:38 PM on January 2, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, that cleared that up!
posted by timyang at 10:53 PM on January 2, 2005

I realized too late that we were talking about The Name of The Rose, not Foucault's Pendulum, which I love with a passion (well, I love most of Eco's stuff, to be honest) and my brain exploded. Sorry.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:14 PM on January 2, 2005

It might be worth pointing out that at the end of the book the monastery is destroyed and we never actually learn its name.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:38 AM on January 3, 2005

For the record, the French "Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan" translates to "But where are the snowfalls of yesteryear".
posted by furtive at 3:11 AM on January 3, 2005

In the film, the rose is the girl (who remains nameless). I haven't read the book, so I don't know if there even was a girl or if that was just a Hollywood invention.
posted by zanni at 4:25 AM on January 3, 2005

Yeah, the girl is in the book, and he never learns her name.

So Villon's poem is what Yossarian is parodying in Catch 22, huh? I never got that.
posted by emyd at 6:22 AM on January 3, 2005

It's from Villon's Ballade (des dames de temps jadis) [Ballad (of the ladies of times past)]

La royne Blanche comme lis
Qui chantoit a voix de seraine,
Berte au grand pié, Beatris, Alis,
Haremburgis qui tint le Maine,
Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine
Qu’Englois brulerent a Rouan;
Ou sont ilz, ou, Vierge souvraine?
Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

Queen Blanche, like a lily
Who sang with a mermaid's voice
Bertha Bigfoot, Beatrice, Alis,
Arembourg, heiress to the Maine,
And Joan, the maid of Lorraine
Whom the English burned at Rouen
Where are they, where, o sovereign Virgin?
And where are the snows of yesteryear? (lame translation mine)

A gorgeous poem. The idea is that all the famously beautiful women of the past are now dead, as vanished as the snows of previous years. Villon was the tits.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2005


I enjoyed the book but never quite bought the explanation for much of the story. It was a reaction to a book on comedy? Why hide this book away and kill those who read it? Couldn't it have been destroyed years ago if the monk (who's name escapes me) had so chosen? Is it really plausible that someone could react with such venom to writings about the nature of humor? Eco couldn't convince me, but perhaps a clever Mefite can.
posted by MotorNeuron at 5:59 PM on January 3, 2005

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