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Literary Devices in A Red, Red Rose

Literary Devices Examples in A Red, Red Rose:

A Red, Red Rose

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"  And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:..."   (A Red, Red Rose)

“Wi’” here is an abbreviated form of “with,” but in this context would mean “under” or “from”: the rocks melt from the heat of the sun. This line is similar to the last one in the second stanza: if the speaker is being straightforward and genuine in the poem, this line reads as a hyperbolic statement meant to emphasize his commitment to his lover. If he’s being ironic, this line will read as an absurd over-exaggeration that really implies that love isn’t permanent, that it will pass. In the latter case, the visual image of rocks melting from the heat of the sun takes on an additional metaphorical layer. Under the heat of the sun, the seemingly unburnable rocks melt away; in the heat of passion, the seemingly endless love actually burns up and disappears.

"Till a’ the seas gang dry...."   (A Red, Red Rose)

Hyperbole is a literary device in which something is exaggerated for emphasis or humor. Of course the speaker and his beloved will not literally live long enough to see the seas dry up. To readers who take the poem as a simple expression of love, the hyperbole here only emphasizes how committed he is to her. Others, who think the speaker is being more playful and ironic, will take this line as a sarcastic declaration of commitment to his beloved. These readers think that by making such an absurd exaggeration about how long he’ll love her, the speaker is in effect saying: This love will likely pass, even if it feels endless right now.

"tune..."   (A Red, Red Rose)

Like the ballads from which Burns adapted some of the lines in this poem, “A Red, Red Rose” is written in ballad measure, also known as common meter. The rhyme scheme in ballad measure is a b c b. The first and third lines are iambic tetrameter, which means four iambs per line. The second and fourth lines are iambic trimeter: three iambs per line. An iamb is a pair of syllables, of which the first is unstressed and the second is stressed. Ballads like “A Red, Red, Rose” were often meant to be sung; historically, ballads were folk songs passed down from one generation to the next.

"like a red, red rose   That’s newly sprung in June..."   (A Red, Red Rose)

The simile “my luve’s like a red, red rose” is an example of the simplicity that some readers find and appreciate in the poem. The comparison of a lover to a flower is not a jarring or surprising one. However, Burns adds the element of time to this conventional simile, adding that the rose is “newly sprung”—or newly blossomed—“in June.” This suggests that his beloved has not been corrupted by the passage of time. She might literally be young or she might be figuratively fresh in spirit. In addition, the repetition of “red” evokes an ideal redness. The rose symbolizing his beloved is so perfectly red that the speaker has to say it twice.

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