Love Songs, Love Poems

Robert Burns (1759-96), a popular poet from Scotland, lives again each January 25th, when millions around the world celebrate his poetry. In his poetry, Burns expresses his concern for people of the working class. He is also one of the first poets to question the treatment of women and children in society. Robbie Burns is best remembered for his love poetry. The following selection is one of his better-known ballads.

A Red, Red Rose, by Robert Burns

O my luve is like a red, red rose
   That's newly sprung in June;
My love is like the melodie
   That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonny 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 love!
   And fare thee weel, awhile!
And I will come again, my love
   Though it were ten thousand mile.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-94) is a well-known poet of the Victorian period. She was acclaimed for her poetic skill and distinctive style. Some recurrent themes in her poetry are of unhappy, delayed, or frustrated love. “A Birthday,” one of her best known poems, has a more positive theme.

A Birthday by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
   Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
   Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
   That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
   Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
   Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
   And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
   In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
   Is come, my love is come to me.
  1. Burns and Rossetti both use a common literary technique, the metaphor, to describe feelings of love. Identify and discuss the similarities and the differences between the two poems.
  2. What effect does the repetition of the phrases create in the poems? Do you like the effect that is created? Why or why not?
  3. Choose your own personal metaphor for describing love. Write a poem, song, or short narrative or create a collage of images which incorporates your metaphor for love.

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Original post by Mr. D. Sader

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