illustrated profiles of a man and a woman set against the backdrop of a red rose

A Red, Red Rose

by Robert Burns
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What is the close reading of "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns?

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Robert Burns's poem can also be read as the lyrics to a song. One can readily imagine the speaker singing it to their beloved. The speaker actually changes address within the poem. They begin using third person to speak about their "luve," then switch in stanza two to second...

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Robert Burns's poem can also be read as the lyrics to a song. One can readily imagine the speaker singing it to their beloved. The speaker actually changes address within the poem. They begin using third person to speak about their "luve," then switch in stanza two to second person direct address, speaking to their love.

Stanza one uses two similes that employ "like": love is like a rose, and love is like a melody.

In Stanzas two, three, and four, the speaker uses hyperbole (extreme exaggeration) to tell the "luve" how much they love her. "Gang" is colloquial Scottish word for "go." "The sands of life" is also a metaphor for time that refers to an hourglass.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run. [. . .]
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.
The last stanza changes tone as well. While the speaker has been declaring eternal love, they indicate a brief separation ("fare thee weel awhile"). This may indicate the context of the poem or song, showing that the speaker specifically composed it before taking leave of their love.
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