Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Parker, “One Perfect Rose”


Dorothy Parker:
“One Perfect Rose”

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

The poem is essentially self-explanatory — an undercutting of high romanticism with a cynical but self-aware materialism. Parker establishes the overblown romantic tone with details such as “flow’r” — recognizable as poetic language and an elision for the meter, like “o’er,” “e’er,” and “e’en” for “over,” “ever,” and “even.” The short final line of the stanzas conveys simplicity and precision — nothing could mean any more. Of course, its tone in the last stanza is a tad more exasperated.

Works Consulted

Parker, Dorothy. “One Perfect Rose.” The Portable Dorothy Parker. Ed. Brendan Gill. NY: The Viking Press, 1973. Literature