Could someone please help me identify the meter in this poem? It's by Robert Burns. Thank you so much!  ChorusGreen grow the rashes, O; Green grow the rashes, O; The sweetest hours that e'er I...

Could someone please help me identify the meter in this poem? It's by Robert Burns. Thank you so much!


Green grow the rashes, O; 
Green grow the rashes, O; 
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend, 
Are spent among the lasses, O. 

There's nought but care on ev'ry han', 
In every hour that passes, O: 
What signifies the life o' man, 
An' 'twere na for the lasses, O. 
The war'ly race may riches chase, 
An' riches still may fly them, O; 
An' tho' at last they catch them fast, 
Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O. 

But gie me a cannie hour at e'en, 
My arms about my dearie, O, 
An' war'ly cares an' war'ly men 
May a' gae tapsalteerie, O! 

For you sae douce, ye sneer at this; 
Ye're nought but senseless asses, O; 
The wisest man the warl' e'er saw, 
He dearly lov'd the lasses, O. 

Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears 
Her noblest work she classes, O: 
Her prentice han' she try'd on man, 
An' then she made the lasses, O. 
Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is intended to be sung. It was once an extremely popular song in Scotland, England and America. I don't know if there is a specific name for the meter. Each stanza is followed by a chorus. The chorus would be described as two feet with the first two syllables stressesd and the last four unstressed and sung more rapidly, so that the four last syllables would be equal in time to the first two. The four-line chorus is sung after each stanza. Then the stanzas would be described as two feet with two syllables stressed and two unstressed in each of the two feet. For example:

AULD NAture swears/THE LOVly dears

HER NOblest work / SHE CLASses , O;

And the chorus:

GREEN GROW the rashes, O; 

GREEN GROW the rashes, O;

THE SWEETest hours / THAT E'ER I spend

ARE SPENT among / THE LASses, O.


I have heard that Americans were singing this song so much in Mexico in the nineteenth century that the Mexicans began calling Americans "green-gos" or "gringos." At one time Robert Burns was probably the most popular poet in America. His "Coming thru the Rye" and "Old Lang Syne" are still popular. I'm sorry I can't give you a more scholarly sounding scanning of the meter of "Green Grow the Rashes," but you might try singing it.


Jessica Gardner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

mhernandes1204, you're definitely correct on the verses containing lines of iambic pentameter, but take a second look at the first two lines of the refrain, as I think you've missed a stress in your counting:

    /            /    -       /    -    /

"Green grow the rashes, O"

There are four stresses, but each foot does not follow the spondaic pattern. A spondee is made up of two stressed syllables together. We see that in "Green grow." However, the rest of the line follows an unstressed-stressed pattern, as in, "the RASHes, O." This pair of feet must be iambic, then.

So, the meter for those lines begins with spondaic monometer (two stressed syllables together, one foot), then continues into iambic dimeter (two feet of unstressed-stressed syllables).

Therefore those lines actually consist of three feet of mixed meter, consisting of 1 spondee + 2 iambs each.

mhernandez1204 | Student

Thank you for your answer, Bill. Although after analyzing the song, or poem in this case, I noticed that the meter was in iambic pentameter. The exception was in the refrain, where the first two lines were written in spondaic trimeter. Thanks for your help though! :D