Make connections


No one reading this post has met the bonnie lass Scottish poet Robert Burns praises in his poem “A Red, Red Rose” (published in 1794), but it isn’t difficult to imagine the kind of woman he calls both “a red, red rose,” and a “melodie.” Our emotional experiences with red roses, melodies, and wooing lovers’ promises will influence our initial impressions as we read.

Here is the  poem in its entirety:

Oh my luve is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
Oh my luve is like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

Deeper participation in poetry requires being intellectually curious. Gardeners might note that Burns compares his lady not to the various pinks of wild roses, but to the red-reds of cultivated roses. History buffs might know whether that indicates the social class of the wooing couple. Music majors could determine whether the structure of the poem is faithful to refrains common in folk songs across Scotland or only to specific areas. Everyone can Google a biography of Burns to see if anything is known of his reasons for writing this poem.

Read, think, and reread. Make multiple connections with a poem and it repays your effort.