My love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June

A Red, Red Rose

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie
   That’s sweetly play’d in tune!

As fair art thou, my bonnie 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;
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.

by Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796)
sung by Eddi Reader
from Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns (2003)

A Scottish Love Song

I found clearer recordings, but this is my favorite because Eddi Reader starts off by smiling over falling in love with her culture when she was falling in love with the songs of Robert Burns. Robert Burns would smile over her for two reasons: he was a bit of a ladies’ man, and he dedicated himself to preserving traditional Scottish songs.

Burns gathered hundreds of traditional Scottish lyrics and melodies, many published for posterity in George Thomson’s five-volume A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice. Their sense of preservation was all about revitalization, not the un-embellished documentation that is common today. Fragments of lyrics were re-imagined as whole songs and embellished with “accompanyments for the violin & piano.”

A Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs for the Voice. To each of which are added, introductory & concluding symphonies, & accompanyments for the violin & piano forte by Pleyel. With select & characteristic verses by the most admired Scotish poets adapted to each air; many of them entirely new: also suitable English verses in addition to such of the songs as are written in the Scotish dialect
title page of A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice (1793)
found in The G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns: An Illustrated Catalogue (2009)

Burns is thought to have written a great deal of the substance of these songs, relying on the spirit of traditional Scottish origins.

A Red, Red Rose didn’t make it into Thompson’s Select Collection until later printings. Instead, A Red, Red Rose was first published in Pietro Urbani’s Scots Songs, “set… to Music in the style of a Scots Tune.” It was sung to a handful of different melodies before the current version became popular.


I’m going to get teased for this. Before my research, I was not aware that A Red, Red Rose was written with a Scottish “accent.” I have a vague childhood memory of reading A Red, Red Rose in class, with standard English spelling. If I’d read it since, I must have ignored those funny luves, skipping right by the point of Robert Burns’s Scottish heritage, expecting the “real” version to be written with “love.”

How American of me!

| More

Comments are closed.