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A Red, Red Rose -- Robert Burns

have you figured out the theme yet?
(Poem #81) A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
    That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie
    That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
    So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
    Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
    And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
    While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
    And fare thee weel, awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
    Tho' it were ten thousand mile!
-- Robert Burns
Another poem that's no less good for it's popularity...but not a poem
one can say much about by way of commentary.


PS. As an aside, I'm in Edinburgh today - a particularly apt coincidence


Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland in 1759. His father, a poor tenant
farmer, tutored his sons at home and sought to provide them with as much
additional education as his resouces allowed. An avid reader, Burns
acquired a grounding in English before studying the poetry of his
Scottish heritage. During his youth Burns endured the hard work and
progressively worsening financial difficulties which beset his family as
they moved from one rented farm to another. As a young man Burns
developed a reputation for charm and wit, engaging in several love
affairs that brought him into conflict with the Presbyterian Church. He
also angered the church by criticizing such accepted beliefs as
predestination and mankind's inherent sinfulness, which he considered
incompatible with human nature. In 1786 Burns proposed marriage to Jean
Armour, who was pregnant with his twin sons. Her parents rejected his
offer and demanded financial restitution. As a result, Burns determined
to sail to the West Indies and start a new life. However, with the
successful publication that year of his 'Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish
Dialect', Burns abandoned his plans and traveled to Edinburgh, where he
was much admired in literary circles. While in Edinburgh Burns met James
Johnson, a printer involved in a project to publish all the folk songs
of Scotland. Burns subsequently traveled throughout the country,
collecting over 300 songs, which were printed in Johnson's six-volume
Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803) and George Thomson's five-volume Select
Collection of Original Airs for the Voice (1793-1818). Many of the songs
he collected were revised or edited by Burns -  as with 'John Anderson
My Jo' - or, in some cases, newly written by him - as with 'A Red, Red
Rose'. One consequence of his journeys around Scotland was his rise to
national prominence and popularity. Burns finally married Armour in 1788
and divided his time between writing poetry and farming until he
obtained a government position three years later. He died from rheumatic
heart disease in 1796.


After the 1786 publication of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect,
Robert Burns spent the last ten years of his life collecting and editing
songs for The Scots Musical Museum, an anthology intended to preserve
traditional Scottish lyrical forms. During this time, Burns also
composed more than three hundred original works for the volume, songs
that relied heavily on forms and sentiments popular in the folk culture
of the Scottish peasantry. 'A Red, Red Rose', first published in 1794 in
A Selection of Scots Songs, edited by Peter Urbani, is one such song.
Written in ballad stanzas, the verse - read today as a poem - pieces
together conventional ideas and images of love in a way that transcends
the "low" or non-literary sources from which the poem is drawn. In it,
the speaker compares his love first with a blooming rose in spring and
then with a melody "sweetly play'd in tune." If these similes seem the
typical fodder for love-song lyricists, the second and third stanzas
introduce the subtler and more complex implications of time. In trying
to quantify his feelings - and in searching for the perfect metaphor to
describe the "eternal" nature of his love - the speaker inevitably comes
up against love's greatest limitation, "the sands o' life." This image
of the hour-glass forces the reader to reassess of the poem's first and
loveliest image: A "red, red rose" is itself an object of an hour,
"newly sprung" only "in June" and afterward subject to the decay of
time. This treatment of time and beauty predicts the work of the later
Romantic poets, who took Burns's work as an important influence.


'A Red, Red Rose' is written in four four-line stanzas, or quatrains,
consisting of alternating tetrameter and trimeter lines. This means that
the first and third lines of each stanza have four stressed syllables,
or beats, while the second and fourth lines have three stressed
syllables. Quatrains written in this manner are called ballad stanzas.
The ballad is a old form of verse adapted for singing or recitation,
originating in the days when most poetry existed in spoken rather than
written form. The typical subject matter of most ballads reflects folk
themes important to common people: love, courage, the mysterious, and
the supernatural. Though the ballad is generally rich in musical
qualities such as rhythm and repetition, it often portrays both ideas
and feelings in overwrought but simplistic terms. The dominant meter of
the ballad stanza is iambic, which means the poem's lines are
constructed in two-syllable segments, called iambs, in which the first
syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed. As an example of
iambic meter, consider the following line from the poem with the
stresses indicated:
     That's sweet / ly play'd / in tune.
This pattern exists most regularly in the trimeter lines of the poem,
lines which most often finish the thoughts begun in the a regularity
which gives the poem a balanced feel that enhances its musical sound.

    -- from the Gale Poetry Resource Center

64 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Robert Burns said...

My luve is like a red,red rose when ere my luve is near, my luve is like
red, red rose that knows no human fear.
No human fear can creep in my luve whenever you're around, cause in your
luve I've found the strength to cover any ground

Robert G. Burns Ocean Grove, NJ

RUTURA said...

robert burns picture please????

Martin Mc Cluskey said...

Theme - this is a poem of reassurance. Burns is leaving his love and
intends to reassure her of his fidelity and love for her in his absence.


orly said...

Anyone looking at the comments on "Red, Red Rose"... the very first comment
posted mentions this poem and "it's [sic] popularity." There is NO
APOSTROPHE on possessive pronouns. I - T apostrophe S means only one
thing: the contraction for it is. His, hers, ours, yours, theirs, its show
possession. No apostrophe.

Anne Reeves said...

The theme is excellent, with a pasionate sincer feeling. Some seem to have printed this poem in books with the original luve as love. Glad to see the peom dosen't. The word was spelt deliberatly so instead of the o` sound we would get a deep, sounding vowel. It makes the poem sound like the lover is in earnest and his luve in his heart rules his life. This poem has excellent rythym and has been sung. I personally think that the peom, spoken correctly is better thet the quick-toned song.

F. A. Doodle

rudy steffler or ardis barnes said...

He's going to sea or to war, and his anguish abounds.

nguyen khacthong said...

And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
And fare thee weel, awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

Why must he say goodbye to his love? Will he come back???

Daniele said...

I'm a italian student and I have just studied this beatiful english poem of Burns! If somebody want to send me own comments, I'll be very happy!!!!! Ciao!!!

Brian Shane said...

who gives a damn about "possessive" whatevers? honestly...u must have no life

孙娟 said...

Lovers should be apart for long distance and time, to let time and space to prove the truth of love.

Whatever long time or space --thousand miles. sands of life(the whole life)
could not prevent him from coming back to his love.
Shall we say it is indeed forever love?

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