Red Rose Essay

Analysis of Burn's Poem A Red, Red Rose

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Analysis of Burn's Poem A Red, Red Rose


'A Red, Red Rose', was first published in 1794 in A Selection of Scots Songs, edited by Peter Urbani. Written in ballad stanzas, the verse - read today as a poem – pieces together conventional ideas and images of love in a way that transcends the "low" or non-literary sources from which the poem is drawn. In it, the speaker compares his love first with a blooming rose in spring and then with a melody "sweetly play'd in tune." If these similes seem the typical fodder for love-song lyricists, the second and third stanzas introduce the subtler and more complex implications of time. In trying to quantify his feelings - and in searching for the perfect metaphor to describe the "eternal" nature of his love - the speaker inevitably comes up against love's greatest limitation, "the sands o' life." This image of the hour-glass forces the reader to reassess of the poem's first and loveliest image: A "red, red rose" is itself an object of an hour, "newly sprung" only "in June" and afterward subject to the decay of time. This treatment of time and beauty predicts the work of the later Romantic poets, who took Burns's work as an important influence.


'A Red, Red Rose' is written in four four-line stanzas, or quatrains, consisting of alternating tetrameter and trimeter lines. This means that the first and third lines of each stanza have four stressed syllables, or beats, while the second and fourth lines have three stressed syllables. Quatrains written in this manner are called ballad stanzas.


The ballad is a old form of verse adapted for singing or recitation, originating in the days when most poetry existed in spoken rather than written form. The typical subject matter of most ballads reflects folk themes important to common people: love, courage, the mysterious, and the supernatural. Though the ballad is generally rich in musical qualities such as rhythm and repetition, it often portrays both ideas and feelings in overwrought but simplistic terms. The dominant meter of the ballad stanza is iambic, which means the poem's lines are constructed in two-syllable segments, called iambs, in which the first syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed. As an example of iambic meter, consider the following line from the poem with the stresses indicated:

     That's sweet / ly play'd / in tune.

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"Analysis of Burn's Poem A Red, Red Rose." 10 Mar 2018

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Red Rose         Subject Matter         Literary Sources         Romantic Poets         Stanzas         Scots         Similes         Speaker         Verse        

This pattern exists most regularly in the trimeter lines of the poem, lines which most often finish the thoughts begun in the a regularity which gives the poem a balanced feel that enhances its musical sound.


In "A Red Red Rose" Burns is telling us what the epitome of love is to him. The similes he uses are meant to show us the grandness of love.   He compares his love to a rose and to a melody, showing us that love is beautiful and precious. Burns also shows us how love is not fleeting; that if it really is love it will always be there no atter how near or far the two people may be from each other.


In rhetoric, a Simile is a figure of speech in which an object is explicitly compared to another object. Robert Burns's poem "A Red Red Rose" contains two straightforward similes:

My love is like a red, red rose

  That's newly sprung in June:

My love is like the melody

  That's sweetly played in tune.

This page is about the flower. For the colour, see Rose (colour).

The rose is a type of floweringshrub. Its name comes from the Latin word Rosa.[1] The flowers of the rose grow in many different colors, from the well-known red rose or yellow roses and sometimes white or purple roses. Roses belong to the family of plants called Rosaceae. All roses were originally wild and they come from several parts of the world, North America, Europe, northwest Africa and many parts of Asia and Oceania. There are over 100 different species of roses. The wild rose species can be grown in gardens, but most garden roses are cultivars, which have been chosen by people.[2]

Over hundreds of years they have been specially bred to produce a wide variety of growing habits and a broad range of colours from dark red to white including as well yellow and a bluish/lilac colour. Many roses have a strong, pleasant scent. Most roses have prickles (incorrectly called thorns) on their stems. Rose bushes are able to tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions. The fruit of the rose is called a hip. Some roses have decorative hips.

Roses are widely used across the world as symbols of love, sympathy or sorrow.

Rose is widely used as a girl's name. Also, roses protect themselves from other predators trying to hunt them with thorns, a widely known defense system.

Roses in legend and in history[change | change source]

The rose was sacred to Venus (mythology). Venus was the Romangoddess of love and beauty.[3] It was also linked with Cupid (son of Venus). He was the Roman god of desire – in one myth, he dropped nectar and the nectar bubbled up from the ground as roses.[3] The rose was also sacred to Bacchus. He was the Roman god of wine.[3]

Rich Romans would lie on couches with roses laid on them. They would wear roses tied onto string around their neck. Anything which was said "under the rose" was considered to be a secret.[3]Cleopatra VII of Egypt was said to have had a floor of her palace covered in roses before her lover Mark Antony visited her.[3]

The rose has been used as a symbol of love for hundreds of years.[3]

Description and use[change | change source]

The flower of the rose plant can be different sizes. It may be as small as 1/2 inch across to a diameter of almost 7 inches.[2] Also, roses can be used for good scent. The scent of the rose comes from tiny perfume glands on the petals,[4][5] which can be seen through a powerful microscope. Sometimes rose petals are dried and packed so that you can use them for decoration or for scent.

Roses can be seen very much in gardens. Sometimes they can be in vineyards as well. In a big vineyard, a bush of roses are planted at the end of each row of vines. As long as the roses stay healthy, the vine growers can see that their vines are healthy as well.[4]

Garden roses[change | change source]

There are thousands of rose cultivars that people grow in gardens and on farms. The names used to describe the different types often refer to one species that is the main ancestor of that group, for example, Gallica roses are mostly descended from Rosa gallica. Other groups have several different species among their ancestors. Hybrid Tea roses, Floribunda roses, and English roses are the most common in gardens today. They are of so many colours like red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and so on

  • Alba roses
  • Bourbon roses
  • Centifolia roses
  • China roses
  • Climbing roses
  • Damask roses
  • English Roses
  • Floribunda roses
  • Gallica roses
  • Hybrid Bracteata roses
  • Hybrid Musk roses
  • Hybrid Perpetual roses
  • Hybrid Tea roses
  • Miniature roses
  • Modern Shrub roses
  • Moss Roses
  • Noisette roses
  • Rugosa roses

Symbolism[change | change source]

In the Catholic religion, rose is a symbolic element of the Holy Rosary; it is reported that Fra Angelico, praying the rosary in the street, saw the Virgin with a group of Angels offering her hymns and prayers while they were composing a crown of roses. Surprised by the vision, he interrupted the prayer and the angels stopped; when he prayed again he saw the angels recommencing to compose the crown of roses to offer to Mary. [7]

Different colored roses have different meanings.

  • Red – A red rose is an expression of love. Red roses usually show deep feelings, like love, longing, or desire. Red roses can also be used to show respect, admiration, or devotion. A deep red rose can be used to show regret and sorrow. The number of red roses given has a special meaning as well. 12 red roses is the most popular number to give; it means "Be mine" and "I love you".[8]
  • Pink – There are a lot of variations of the pink rose. Usually, pink roses are used to express gentle emotions such as admiration, joy, gratitude and deep or endless love.[8]
  • Dark pink – Deep pink rose blooms may mean deep gratitude and appreciation. Dark pink roses also express elegance and grace.[8]
  • Light pink – Light pink rose blooms are symbols of pleasantness and innocence.[8]
  • White – White is the color of purity, innocence and sacred love. It represents love that is eternal and endures beyond death. White roses usually may symbolize a new start, and it is a custom for brides to hold them when she walks down the aisle at her wedding. In certain faiths, the white rose can represent the sanctity of a marriage. White roses can be used to show sympathy or humility. They also may be about spiritual things.[8]
  • Yellow – Yellow roses are usually used as an expression of exuberance. Yellow roses show sunny feelings of joy, warmth, and sometimes welcome. They are symbols of friendship and caring. The yellow rose, unlike some of the other roses, does not mean or express any romance.[8]
  • Orange – Orange roses remind most people of a fiery blaze. These fiery blooms are symbols of passion and energy. Orange roses can be used to show desire and pride.[8]
  • Burgundy – The color of burgundy is a symbol of beauty.[8]
  • Green – Green roses (these are sometimes white roses with shades of green) can symbolize best wishes, luck, and blessings for a good life or recovery of good health.[8]
  • Blue – Blue roses cannot be found in the nature and so they represent the unattainable or the mysterious. Blue roses therefore show the desire for the goals you cannot reach. They may sometimes mean "I can't have you but I can't stop thinking about you".[8]
  • Black – Black is the color of death and farewell. A black roses show the death of a feeling or idea. Sending black roses to someone indicates the death of the relationship, or sometimes it may be used in burials.[8]
  • Violet and Purple – A violet or purple rose may show protection, and also a sense of majesty, royalty, and splendor. These roses are used to show adoration.[8]
  • Lavender – A lavender rose, like its color, shows enchantment. It also expresses "love at first sight".[8]

Gallery[change | change source]

  • A Hybrid tea rose,'Mrs. Herbert Stevens'

References[change | change source]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rosa.
A wild rose species will typically have only five petals, making them dicots.
Yellow rose (Rosa foetida) being pollinated by a bee
Hundreds of years ago, the roses in people's gardens looked different from most roses grown today. This 'Tuscany Superb' rose cultivar was discovered in 1837.[6]

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