Analysis Pages

Historical Context in A Red, Red Rose

Historical Context Examples in A Red, Red Rose:

A Red, Red Rose

🔒 2

"As fair art thou, my bonnie lass..."   (A Red, Red Rose)

This line contains four archaisms—words or phrases no longer used in contemporary English, or not in the same way. The adjective “fair” here means lovely or pretty. “Art” in this context means “are.” The second-person singular pronoun “thou” was once used as a less formal alternative to “you,” which contemporary speakers would say in this context. And “bonnie lass” was a phrase from the Scottish dialect used as a term of endearment to describe a pretty young woman. So a translation of this line into contemporary English might read: “As lovely are you, my pretty girl.”

"my Luve’s..."   (A Red, Red Rose)

In the past, English spelling wasn’t standardized in the way it is today, and “love” could sometimes be spelled “luve.” However, by 1794 this spelling was relatively uncommon. It seems Burns intentionally used this unconventional spelling because it was in keeping with the foreign terms and usages that the Scottish dialect introduced, such as “gang,” “weel,” and “bonnie lass.” “My luve,” in this first stanza, is a term of endearment: it refers to the person he loves, not the feeling.

Analysis Pages