A Red, Red Rose Questions and Answers
by Robert Burns

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In the poem "A Red Red Rose" by Robert Burns, what does "while the sands o' life shall run" mean?

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The sands o’ life refer to time. The speaker is saying he will still love his girl even after she is old and has lost her beauty.

This is a typical love poem in which the speaker talks about how much he loves his girl. She’s as perfect as a brand new rose. In fact, he compares her to “red, red rose,/That's newly sprung in June.” Now, this is problematic because a rose does not keep its beauty forever. When a rose first blooms, it is perfect. It is a bounty of nature, like a beautiful woman in her prime. However, no one can stay this way—not the rose, and not the...

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vhk521 | Student

I think it's interesting to see Burns place this line in the same stanza as "Till a’ the seas gang dry" and "the rocks melt wi' the sun." Burns uses these two hyperboles (exaggerations) to signify that he will love the girl for a very long time, but "a very long time" is a very subjective and vague phrase. To some, a very long time may be ten years, but to others, it may be fifty years. Then as if Burns were clarifying this statement with a specific amount of time, he says that he will love her "while the the sands o' life shall run," meaning he will love her until the day he dies. This is a much clearer indication of time, and in my opinion, juxtaposing it to the hyperboles helps make his statement much more indicative of his supposed sincerity.