By Anwen Greenaway
The twenty-fifth of January is the annual celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Legend has it that in 1801 a group of men who had known Burns gathered together to mark the fifth anniversary of his death and celebrate his life and work. The event proved a great success, so they agreed to meet again the following January on the poet’s birthday, and thus the tradition of Burns Night Supper was born. Today the celebration still features a haggis and recitation or singing of Burns’s work, in a tradition reaching back to the very first Burns Night celebration.
As Scots the world-over prepare to celebrate Burns Night we are pleased to be able to present an extract from the new book Robert Burns’s Selected Poems and Songs. It presents all the selected songs and poems in their original version, with the original melody printed alongside the text for the songs. Our extract, A Red Red Rose, is one of Burns’s most famous songs, originally published in Volume V of The Scots Musical Museum (1796), and the text of the poem has been set by many composers over the years.
A Red Red Rose
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 bonie 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:
O I will love thee still my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!
There are numerous different versions of this famous and evocative song. Here at Oxford University Press one of our favourites is John Gardner’s setting of A Red Red Rose in his choral work, A Burns Sequence. Gardner composed a new melody instead of using the traditional melody Robert Burns chose, and it makes a beautiful song. Take a listen to The National Youth Choir of Scotland’s recording with soloist Ross Buddie.
Enjoy your Burns Night celebrations!
Anwen Greenaway is a Promotion Manager in Sheet Music at Oxford University Press and she would like to thank from Judith Luna, Senior Commissioning Editor, and Jenni Crosskey, Production Editor, for their assistance with this blog post. Read her previous blog posts.