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“A Red, Red Rose” Poem by Robert Burns Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2021

Robert Burns poetry is a perfect example of simplicity combined with effectiveness. And depth This paper analyzes the poem A Red, Red Rose (1794), stating that the poems usage of simple similes, hyperboles and repetitions extended the meaning of the poem, in which he describes how deep and everlasting his love is.

Burns was born January 25, 1759, Alloway near Ayr in Ayrshire, Scotland (Dunn), his biography reveals that the simplicity of his poetry and its being “sprung from nature uncorrupted by the evils of civilization and untutored by literary tradition” (Keenan) was a myth, as despite being self educated he was well read, and “valued deeply the established FOLKLORE and literary traditions of Scotland” (Keenan). In that regard, the origins of such myth can be seen in the poem analyzed in this paper, which despite the apparent simplicity of the poem at first, it reveals his romantic nature, in which the comparative clichés obtain a deeper meaning.

The poem was written in four stanzas and originally was written as song. The rhythm can be seen in alteration, where Burns altered in the structure of the lines, where 4 stressed syllables was alternated with three, e.g. the first line “O, my love is like a red, red rose,” (Burns) has four stressed syllables in My, Like, the first Red, and Like; the second line “That is newly sprung in June” has three stressed syllables in New, Spring, and June. The same pattern is repeated through the four stanzas. Additionally, a certain pattern can be seen in alternating the rhyme of the last word in a line, where in the first two stanzas, the first and the third lines where unrhymed, while the second and the third has a masculine rhyme. In the third and fourth stanzas, the pattern was established through repeating the words in the first and third line instead of un-rhyming them, while the second and the fourth line remained a masculine rhyme. The rhyme sounded as follows: rose-melody, June-tune, lass-dear, I-dry, Dear-Dear, sun-run, love-love, while, mile. This change and alternation of pattern might represent the poem’s progression, distinguishing the introduction of the words, from the assertion of the idea in the last stanzas. Additionally, such alternation provides a certain melodic pattern, which can be understood given the original presentation of the poem as a song.

The usage of similes, which is “Comparing one thing to an unlike thing by using like, as, or than” (Cummings), is another distinctive feature of Burns poem. In the first stanza, Burns compares his love to a rose and to a melody. In the first simile, the comparison with a rose, with the assertion of its color in repeating the word red both can symbolize the innocence and the passion of his emotions, where the innocence can be sense from the comparison to a flower, while the red color can symbolize the passion of the author. Both similes in the first stanza were followed by a description, in which the author adds a slight detail, in which his love is denoted as not an ordinary one. In the rose simile, Burns clarifies that the rose is “newly sprung in June”, which explains that despite the passion in his love, his love is young, fragile and is still growing. In the tune simile, the melody to which his love is compared is not any melody, but which is “sweetly played in tune”, i.e. in harmony, a distinction from uncontrollable splashes of emotions.

In the second stanza Burns addresses his beloved using two similar words in comparison, “As fair are you, my lovely lass” (bonie lass in the Scots original), where fair and lovely were used like dimension, to describe the depth of his love. In the third and the fourth line of the poem, Burns uses a hyperbole, i.e. an overstatement (Cummings), in which the figure of speech shows used asserts that his loved will never end by comparing linking the possibility of that happening to the time “the seas go dry”.

In the third stanza, Burns as if thinking that the previous assertion is not enough to show the endless nature of his love, repeats the last line from the second stanza adding another hyperbole “the rocks melt with the sun”. The last two lines in the stanza, serves as a return to reality, where the author contrasts the previous figure of speech with a realistic tone, stating that he will love his beloved all his life, as previous metaphors used to indicate the degree to which his love is endless, while stating “While the sands of life shall run” serves as a realistic promise and commitment. The repetition of the words dear in this stanza, as well as love in the fourth serve to stress her position in his heart, as well the assertions of the pronoun my, as indication of possession.

The fourth stanza serves merely to indicate a fact, which is the author leaving his beloved for “a while”. Burns finishes the stanza with a hyperbole asserting that he will comeback, no matter how far he would go. The indication of “ten thousand mile” might serve also as a statement that love does not know boundaries and distance, and that his love will not weaken no matter how far he will be.

It can be seen that the simple presentation of the poem, nevertheless, had a deeper meaning, where the usage of similes, hyperboles and repetitions was successful in transferring Burns emotions. Additionally, the rhyme and the rhythm pattern in the poem made it enjoyable to be read as a poem, or sang as a song.

Works Cited

Burns, Robert. “A Red, Red Rose”. 2004. The World Burns Club. Web.

Cummings, Michael J. “Literary Terms “. 2009. Cummings Study Guides. Web.

Dunn, John J. “Robert Burns.” Research Guide to Biography & Criticism 1 (1985): 157-60 pp. Web.

Keenan, Richard. “Burns, Robert.” (2003): 144-45 pp. Web.

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