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Meter in A Red, Red Rose

Meter Examples in A Red, Red Rose:

A Red, Red Rose

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"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.

"play’d..."   (A Red, Red Rose)

Historically, “played” would be pronounced in two syllables, though modern speakers tend to say it in one. Because the “-ed” ending of words used to be pronounced as a separate syllable, poets would sometimes replace the “e” with an apostrophe—“play’d” instead of “played”—to indicate that the word should be collapsed into one syllable. The contraction of the “-ed” ending helps the poet fit words into the meter at hand.

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