William Morris abhorred the Victorian era and instead, turned to medievalism as his source of inspiration. His fascination with the medieval era resonates throughout the entire poem as he clearly presents an idealized version of medieval values: "heroism, chivalry, beauty, and love" (Cody). Morris describes a heroic knight who, though visibly outmatched, leads his "golden" troops against the attackers represented by "the scarlet and blue." This knight does not merely represent a heroic battler who fights for his people; he also represents the chivalrous knight who fights to protect his beloved:

THERE was a lady lived in a hall,
Large in the eyes, and slim and tall;
And ever she sung from noon to noon,
Two red roses across the moon.

There was a knight came riding by
In early spring, when the roads were dry;
And he heard that lady sing at the noon,
Two red roses across the moon.

Yet none the more he stopp'd at all,
But he rode a-gallop past the hall;
And left that lady singing at noon,
Two red roses across the moon.

Because, forsooth, the battle was set,
And the scarlet and blue had got to be met,
He rode on the spur till the next warm noon: —
Two red roses across the moon.

"Two Red Roses Across the Moon" invokes a bright and colorful visual image. Not only does Morris include the color "red" in the title of the poem and the refrain, but he also uses colors to describe the battle scene:

You scarce could see for the scarlet and blue,
A golden helm or a golden shoe,
So he cried, as the fight grew thick at the noon,
Two red roses across the moon!

Verily then the gold bore through
The huddled spears of the scarlet and blue;
And they cried, as they cut them down at the noon,
Two red roses across the moon!

The use of bright colors in Morris's poetry appears to create vitality and movement as the reader imagines the battle scene. In addition, it reminds the reader of Morris's admiration for the earlier Pre-Raphaelites, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and for Pre-Raphaelite ideals such as the incorporation of vivid colors in their paintings.

Questions

1. Do you think the noon hour possesses any significance? Why does Morris insist on using the word "noon" (despite the fact that it rhymes with the refrain: "Two red roses across the moon")?

2. What does "two red roses across the moon" mean? Does it contain different meanings in the various stanzas? How does the repetition of this line affect the poem?

3. Morris's early poems tend to be of a much shorter nature than Swinburne's poems. Why do you think Morris chooses to keep his poetry to a shorter length?

4. Morris incorporates simple rhymes throughout the entire poem. Why do you think he does this? What kind of effect does this create?


Victorian Web Overview Visual Arts William Morris Discussion questions for William Morris

Last modified 7 November 2004