Contemporary poetry assignments seldom receive negative reviews stronger than “not too bad,” but when assignments feature what some of my past students have labeled “thee-and-thine” poems, already-reluctant readers cringe.
I get it. Old-fashioned language, unfamiliar allusions, and the possibility of symbolism can scare even “A” students.
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: