A Red, Red Rose Questions and Answers
by Robert Burns

A Red, Red Rose book cover
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In the sonnet "A Red, Red Rose" what language usage, including figurative language and metaphorical references, were used?  

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coachingcorner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Unfortunately the excessive use of hyperbole, passionate sentimental similes and a strong love metaphor in the title did not mean faithfulness to Robert Burns! In this love poem 'A Red Red Rose' he may say things like he will love his girl til all the seas 'gang dry,' but in Scotland there must not have been much seawater at that time! Poor old Rab found it almost nigh impossible to be faithful and was falling in love every five minutes! In fact, this poem/song does not have a particularly lovey dovey air - Robert Burns asked for it to be set to the tune of a very popular marching song! (Some critics think this was the 'Major Graham.') However, the imagery in the poem is so vivid that despite Burns changing allegiances, we still love its vividness today.

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kmcappello eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Are you referring to the poem "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns?  The rose he refers to in the poem is a metaphor for his love.  He compares his love for his "bonnie lass" to the newly bloomed flower as well as to a "melodie/That's sweetly played in tune."  The implication is that his love is beautiful, new, and sweet.

Burns also uses figurative language, or figures of speech, to describe how long his will love the girl.  He says he will love her until the seas dry up, rocks melt in the sun, and all the sands of time run out.  Meaning, of course, that he will love her forever.

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lit24 | Student


Towards the end of his life Robert Burns (1759-96) was engaged in the task of collecting old traditional scottish songs. In one of his letters in 1794 he states that the song "A Red, Red Rose" is "a simple old Scots song which I picked up in the country." Hence the poem is not his original composition.

Burns' poem, however, is charmingly simple and direct in its method of praising his  lover and most significantly describes how much he loves her:"As fair art, thou my bonny lass/So deep in luve I am."

He then tells her how much he loves her:

I will luve thee still, my Dear,

While the sands o'life shall run.

The implication is that he will love her forever, that is, infinity. As long as human life exists on this earth he will love her. Burns uses hyperbole, that is, exaggeration to convey to his lover the depth and intensity of his love for her. In the previous line he has told her that he will love her till all the seas dry up! But he is not satisfied with that, because he feels that there is a possibility that all the seas may indeed dry up so he says that he will love her  till all human life comes to an end on planet earth!

It is this hyperbole which foregrounds the extent and nature of his love.

nusratfarah | Student

First of all, I want to inform that, it's not a sonnet dear. It's a lyrical love poem consisted of 16 lines. Yet, under the normality, there lies an extraordinary poem decorated and ornamented with vivid figurative languages.

The figurative devices used in the poem are given bellow:

1. Symbol: The title itself is a very common example of symbolization. The red roe stands for deep, passionate love.

2. Simile: In line 1 & 3, the speaker directly compares his love with rose and melody using "like". These are examples of simile.

3. Hyperbole: There are over-statements here to show the depth of love; those are hyperbolic statements. Lines 7-8, 9-10, 15-16 are examples of hyperboles.

4. Metaphor: "Sands o' life" (l.12) is a metaphor, since here life is implicitly compared with the sand-clock, where every moment of life is like the every drop of sand in the clock.

5. Parallelism: In the first stanza, the first two lines are parallel to the second two lines. The parallelism is connected to the poet's intensity of feeling.

6. Repetition: The phrases "Till a' the seas gang dry"(l. 8-9) and "And fair thee weel" (l. 13-14) are uttered twice. The repetitions emphasise the speaker's expression. Thus the theme of love gets foregrounded.

7. Euphony: The words used in the poem are mostly very soft to the ear, and they sound very pleasant. Consequently, a melodious tune is created which is related to the theme of the poem. The use of soft words is called euphony.