|Eco states in the Postscript to the Name of the Rose that Bernard's poem is also the source of the novel's title and last line —
"Stat rosa pristina nomine; nomina nuda tenemus." — meaning that in this imperfect world, the only imperishable things are ideas.
(Yesterday's rose endures in its name; we hold empty names.)
For Bernard and Adso, this verse would express the impermanence of physical objects. For Eco, however, the "empty name" represents an indefinite semiotic sign. The rose of the title is a symbol so rich in meaning that it now means everything and nothing. It is empty space which readers can fill in with their own interpretation.
"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."
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