Red roses are traditionally associated with romance, so it is not surprising that Wilde uses one to symbolize true love in "The Nightingale and the Rose." Its significance, however, shifts over the context of the story. At first, the rose appears to represent the Student's love for the girl, since her refusal to dance with him unless he brings her the flower makes the flower into a piece of evidence that his feelings are genuine. By sacrificing her life to bring the Student a rose, the Nightingale further underscores this idea that the flower is an expression of true love; in fact, the Rose quite literally comes from the Nightingale's heart, because she uses her blood to stain it red. In the end, however, neither the Student nor the girl is able to appreciate the rose's symbolic significance. The girl, for instance, compares the rose unfavorably to the jewels she has received from another suitor, while the Student reacts angrily when the girl goes back on her promise to dance with him. This suggests that neither character ever truly saw the rose as a symbol of love, but rather as a kind of currency to buy someone's affection.
The Red Rose Quotes in The Nightingale and the Rose
Here at last is a true lover…Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is as dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are as red as the rose of his desire.
Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the market-place. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.
"He is weeping for a red rose," said the Nightingale.
"For a red rose?" they cried; "how very ridiculous!" and the little Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.
If you want a red rose…you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.
The Student looked up from the grass and listened, but he could not understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.
Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.
What a wonderful piece of luck…here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name.