A Red, Red Rose Summary

In Robert Burns’s “A Red, Red Rose,” the speaker bids farewell to his beloved and promises to return to her, no matter the hardship.

  • The poem opens with the speaker comparing his beloved to a red rose and praising her beauty.

  • He declares that his love for her is so deep and everlasting that it will survive until the sea dries up.

  • He promises that although he must leave, he will come back, even if he must travel ten thousand miles to do so.

Summary

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Last Updated on July 28, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 462

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“A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns was published in A Selection of Scots Songs in 1794. It is technically a verse, collected by Burns as a contribution to the anthology titled The Scots Musical Museum. The piece is most commonly distributed as a poem, known for combining both traditional Scots songs and contemporary ballads to make up its verses. 

Summary

The poem begins with the speaker describing his love. She is likened to a “red, red rose.” This rose is young as if newly sprung in the month of June. The love the two share, and seemingly the speaker’s love interest herself, embodies the youthful and vibrant blooming associated with the early summer. The speaker uses another comparison, saying his love is like a melody played sweetly. Such a melody is in tune, emphasizing the quality and performance of the song. Not only is the song itself beautiful, but it is also of substance. By comparing her to the rose and the song, the speaker paints a positive portrait of his love.

Burns’s speaker directly addresses his love in the following stanza. He refers to her by a Scottish term of endearment: “my bonnie lass.” The speaker calls her his own, not merely “any,” lass. He affirms their connection. She is a fair, pretty girl according to the speaker’s description. In his eyes, their love is long-lasting: he is deeply in love with her and emphasizes this throughout the stanza. This love is so deep that he claims he will love her until the seas dry up.

In the third stanza, the speaker repeats his statement from before, asserting he will be caring for his “bonnie lass” until the seas become dry. This stanza shifts to a poetic emphasis on the depth of the speaker’s love. He will love her until the rocks “melt” with the sun, presumably in the very distant future—if ever. He will love her even when the sands of life run out. These sweeping statements within the stanza mean that the love the speaker experiences is eternal and unshakeable, even if the natural world around him is not.

The final stanza begins with another direct address to the speaker’s love interest. The speaker implores his love to fare well, emphasizing that she is his one and only. He repeats his good wishes by adding that he hopes she fares well for a while. Something appears to be separating the two lovers. The narrator wants to emphasize and reiterate his strong feelings so that his love will feel secure in their connection. He assures her that he will come again, even if there is a distance of ten thousand miles between them. Despite any upcoming struggles, it seems their love will endure.

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