Study Guide

A Red, Red Rose Quotes

By Robert Burns

  • Love

    O my Luve's like a red, red rose
    That's newly sprung in June: (1-2)

    The speaker compares his love to a "newly sprung" flower; his love is fresh, new, just beginning its life. But wait. That's kind of weird, right? It seems like his love is very deep, like he's loved his bonnie lass for quite some time. So how can it seem so new?

    O my Luve's like the melodie
    That's sweetly play'd in tune! (3-4)

    His love is not of the stormy variety. Nope, it's all hearts and flowers and melodies. He's all swoon, all the time.

    As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
    So deep in luve am I: (5-6)

    The speaker says he is as "deep in luve" as his "bonnie lass" is fair. What if, however, the "lass" isn't really that "fair" (i.e. pretty)? If she isn't that good looking, then he really isn't that in love. This isn't a very likely prospect, but the language certainly leaves the possibility open. We just couldn't resist pointing it out.

    And I will luve thee still, my dear,
    Till a' the seas gang dry: (7-8)

    The word "still" is interesting; it can mean both "remaining the same," as in "even after you get old, I will still love you," as well as "motionless" or "quiet" (like a corpse). Not to get all morbid or anything, but it almost sounds like the speaker is saying, "I will luve thee still" in the sense of "I will luve you until you are still and motionless." (Just think of the phrase "I will love you silly.") This interpretation makes the poem seem just a teensy bit darker. Okay, maybe a lot darker.

    I will luve thee still, my dear,
    While the sands o' life shall run. (11-12)

    Lines 11 and 12 have an odd number of syllables (7), which makes them stand out or seem kind of weird in a poem with such an obvious form. But hey, maybe this weirdness could mean that the speaker's passion is getting out of control to the point that he can't keep his verses nice and neat. Or it could reflect some hesitation, too. Maybe he's sweaty-palmed about professing his love.

    And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
    And fare thee weel a while!
    And I will come again, my Luve, (13-15)

    In the final stanza, the speaker rhymes "Luve" with… "Luve." Sure, this is kind of cheap (who rhymes the same word in the same stanza, right?). But it does suggest that the speaker can only think about one thing: love. The fact that he says love twice here, and a few other times in the poem, definitely hints that he's got a one-track mind.

  • Man and the Natural World

    O my Luve's like a red, red rose
    That's newly sprung in June: (1-2)

    That all sounds nice enough… but Roses have thorns, which makes the speaker's comparison just a little strange. We can't help thinking that he is leaving open the possibility that maybe love, like roses, has its own nasty side.

    So deep in luve am I:
    And I will luve thee still, my dear,
    Till a' the seas gang dry: (6-8)

    Notice that the word "dry" rhymes with "I." The word "dry" conjures up a lot of associations. We associate it with things that are boring, passionless, or even lifeless (if an ocean dries up, most of the things in it will die). This is certainly an odd rhyme. Why might Burns want to draw that connection?

    Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
    And the rocks melt wi' the sun; (9-10)

    Not to go all obvious on you, but Rocks are really hard; they often symbolize permanence, steadfastness, and endurance. They don't usually melt. The speaker suggests that even if the impossible happens—if the world ends and things like rocks start melting—he will still love his "bonnie lass." In other words, this just got real.

  • Time

    O my Luve's like a red, red rose
    That's newly sprung in June: (1-2)

    So wait a second. Does this mean that the speaker's love can, like a flower, only bloom in spring, when the conditions are just right? That doesn't quite jive with the speaker's later emphasis on the immortality of his love, now does it? Here it seems like his love is subject to the forces of time.

    And I will luve thee still, my dear,
    Till a' the seas gang dry: (7-8)

    That's more like it. Here he's all, yep, my love is timeless. Take that, you ocean.

    Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
    And the rocks melt wi' the sun; (9-10)

    Maybe we should imagine that the rocks are a symbol of the speaker's everlasting love; they are hard and durable, and it'll be a long time before they melt (and a long time before his love wanes, if it ever does).

    I will luve thee still, my dear,
    While the sands o' life shall run. (11-12)

    While "run" can just mean "pass" or "move," the word makes us imagine time passing by very quickly. This gives the poem a sense of urgency; the speaker acts, almost, as if he doesn't have a whole lot of time and must make haste.