Jan 25, 2014 by

Scotland’s favorite son, Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), was born on this day in 1759, in South Ayrshire, Scotland.   His poetry and songs, most in the Scots dialect are famous around the world, and are traditionally recited at Burns suppers, held on or near his birthday to honor the poet.

“A Red, Red Rose” is one of Burns’ most beloved romantic poems, originally sung to the tune of “Major Graham”, a song written by Niel Gow, the  famous Scottish fiddler and dancie (traveling dance instructor and bard) of the eighteenth century.


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

A Red, Red Rose “, by Robert Burns, 1794

Burns described this song as one he heard a young country girl singing, as he passed by. Considered to be a pioneer of the Romantic Movement, Burns traveled throughout Scotland, writing down old songs and tunes he found, then adapting and revising them in his own style.  His efforts helped preserve part of the Scottish oral tradition that might have been lost forever.

In 2008, Bob Dylan was asked which lyric or verse has had the biggest effect on his life.   Dylan, whose own songs are often cited by other musicians as significantly influencing their work,  chose “A Red, Red Rose” by Burns as the biggest inspiration for his music and poetry.   Quite the compliment, aye, Rab?

My favorite song version of Red, Red Rose is by Andy Stewart, lead singer for the late, great Silly Wizard:


Robert Burns’ poetry is also meant to be spoken, to feel the Scots words rrroll across your tongue:


Mastering the Scots dialect used by Burns is easier than you might think, especially if you listen to it sung and read as in the above videos.
Besides, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner–what better way to win fair lady than with the beautiful words of Burns’ most romantic love poem?

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