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A Red, Red Rose

A Red, Red Rose

by Robert Burns

Stanza 1 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 1-2

O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June:

  • The poem opens with one of the most famous similes of all time.
  • The speaker is saying his love is like a really red rose that is "newly sprung in June." In other words, the speaker's love is like a flower that has just emerged from the ground.
  • You know what that means, Shmoopers: his love is new, fresh, and young. It's doin' just fine.
  • Oh, and didn't we tell you we're also experts in Scottish dialects? "Luve" is an older spelling of love, and "'s" is an abbreviation of "is."
  • Burns often spells things in strange ways, partly because he wrote over two hundred years ago and partly because he was Scottish (which means he pronounced and spelled words slightly differently).
  • One final thing before we keep right on reading: these lines have a bit of a jaunt to them, don't you think? In fact, they're written in iambic meter. The first line has eight syllables, which probably means we're dealing with tetrameter, and the second line has six, which is a sign of trimeter, sure as shootin'.

Lines 3-4

O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune!

  • Not satisfied with the whole rose comparison? No worries. The speaker's got another simile for ya.
  • The speaker next compares his love to a melodie (an older spelling of the word melody) that is "sweetly play'd in tune."
  • The speaker's "luve," then, is like a song that is sung or "play'd" just right, so right in fact that it's kind of sweet.
  • Okay. Let's tally it up. So far, we know that the speaker's love is like an oh so red rose, and like an awesome jam. What's next?
  • And here's a question. Is the speaker talking about his love for a girl—a bonnie lass? Or is he talking about the girl herself?
  • These lines also repeat the metrical pattern we got in the first two lines. A line of tetrameter, followed by a line of trimeter. Only now we've added a rhyme scheme, too.
  • June and tune rhyme, which means that our rhyme scheme goes a little something like this: ABCB.
  • This repeated meter, combined with the catchy rhyme scheme, can only mean one thing: ballad meter.
  • Check out our "Form and Meter" section for more.

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