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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

The Lily and the Rose

William Cowper (1731–1800)

THE NYMPH must lose her female friend,

If more admired than she;

But where will fierce contention end,

If Flowers can disagree?

Within the garden’s peaceful scene

Appeared two lovely foes,

Aspiring to the rank of Queen—

The Lily and the Rose.

The Rose soon reddened into rage;

And, swelling with disdain,

Appealed to many a Poet’s Page,

To prove her right to reign.

The Lily’s height bespoke command;

A fair imperial flower,

She seemed designed for Flora’s hand,

The sceptre of her power!

This civil bick’ring and debate

The Goddess chanced to hear;

And flew to save, ere yet too late,

The pride of the parterre!

‘Yours is,’ she said, ‘the noblest hue;

And yours, the statelier mien;

And, till a third surpasses you,

Let each be deemed a Queen!’

Thus soothed and reconciled, each seeks

The fairest British Fair;

The seat of empire is her cheeks,

They reign united there.