A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns – All You Need To Know

A red, red rose by Robert Burns cover image

A Red, Red Rose is a lyrical poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns and it was written and composed in 1794. It’s a 16-line, four-stanza lyrical poem wherein the poet is expressing his love for someone. 

While the poem is not too difficult to understand, it is worth a deeper look and analysis to see the subtleties in the composition and structure. Let’s take a look at the poem first and then at the meaning and analysis. 

A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns 

O my Luve is like a red, red rose 
   That’s newly sprung in June; 
O my Luve is like the melody 
   That’s sweetly played in tune. 

So 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; 
I will love 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, 
   Though it were ten thousand mile.

Meaning of the Poem

The speaker in the poem is expressing his love, saying that no matter what happens, his love is never going to run out. He compares his love to a red rose in the warm and balmy weather of June or the melodious tunes that are played.

Burns uses metaphors and imagery to give impact to his love. But after the second stanza, the meaning and message of the poem change a bit. Instead of talking about his love, he talks about the longevity of it. 

The poet makes some great comparisons such as his deep love is going to last long, longer than the time the seas would take to dry up. Finally, the poem ends with the line that he would come back to his love, even if the distance between them was a thousand miles. 

Stanza-by-Stanza Analysis

My love is like a red red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Love’s like the melodie

That’s sweetly play’d in tune;

The first stanza is about the love of the speaker. He says that his love feels like a red rose in the pleasant weather of June. His love looks beautiful, comforting, and colorful like a red rose in a green field in June.

His love sounds like the sweet tunes of melodies. So both sight and sound of something pleasant. It’s a simple yet sweet way of using metaphor and imagery to show his love’s qualities. 

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in love am I;

And I will love thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry;

The second stanza starts with the longevity of his love. The poet says that he is so deeply in love with this woman as she is fair and lovely, that his love her till every sea in the world dries up. Another great use of metaphor is to emphasize the power of his love.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt with’ the sun;

And I will love thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

The metaphor continues in the third stanza as the poet says how long his love is going to last. Apart from the seas drying, he says that this love will last till the end of  the world when the rocks will melt with the sun and the sands of life shall run out. The essence of this stanza is that the poet will love the person till the end of his love. 

And fare thee well, my only Love

And fare the well, a while!

And I will come again, my Love,

Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

The final stanza is used to represent the death of the poet and the person he loves. He says that while he might say goodbye for a while, he is going to come back again to his love because even death cannot do them apart. No matter how far she is, he will go to her. 

A Red Red Rose poem by Robert Burns.

Literary Devices in the Poem

The poem you’ve provided is “A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns. It is a beautiful romantic poem that employs several literary devices. Here are the prominent ones:

Simile: The poem begins with a simile, comparing the speaker’s love to a “red, red rose.” This simile creates a vivid image and suggests the beauty and freshness of love.

Metaphor: The second stanza contains a metaphor, where the speaker compares their love to a sweetly played melody. This comparison enhances the idea of harmony and beauty in their affection.

Repetition: The phrases: “And I will love thee still, my dear” and “Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,” are repeated twice in the poem, emphasizing the speaker’s unwavering and enduring love. The repetition creates a musical quality and reinforces the central theme.

Hyperbole: The speaker employs hyperbole in the lines “Till a’ the seas gang dry” and “And the rocks melt with’ the sun.” These exaggerations convey the depth and eternal nature of their love by using exaggerated imagery. 

Alliteration: The poem features alliteration, which is the repetition of consonant sounds, in lines such as “red, red rose,” “Sands of life Shall run”, etc.

Imagery: Throughout the poem, vivid imagery is employed to describe the speaker’s love and emotions. Examples include the red rose, the newly sprung June, the seas going dry, and the rocks melting with the sun. These images evoke powerful visual and sensory experiences.

Rhyme: The poem follows an ABCB rhyme scheme in which the second line rhymes with the fourth line of each stanza.

Interesting Facts about this Poem

While the poem might be considered a sweet and simple expression of one’s love, there are some very interesting things about the creation and composition of this poem and the poet that you should know. 

For example, the poems as inspired by a traditional Scottish ballad called “The Mariner’s Wife.” Burns was known to take inspiration from simple, traditional folk songs and turn them into magnificent poetry. 

Another interesting thing about this poem is that it has inspired many great artists such as Bob Dylan and The Chieftains. This poem is also very special in Scottish culture as it is considered one of the most famous Scottish poems ever written. In fact, the poem is often recited on January 25 to commemorate Robert Burn’s birthday. 

While you are here, take a look at the best love poems ever written by the most famous poets of all time!