My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose

Robert Burns, traditional


This example of "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose" is performed by Andy M. Stewart  
on his album"The Songs of Robert Burns
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

Robert Burns first set this poem to a tune composed by Niel Gow for the song Major Graham. One of Burns' editors later put the words to the melody from another popular song, Wishaw's Favourite; later it was set to the tune Low Down in the Broom, of which it is now well-known.

The text itself holds some confusion about its origins. According to the 1890 book Scottish Songs Illustrated (Adam and Gee), this song is a Robert Burns rewrite of an older street ballad,  which is said to have been written by a Lieutenant Henches, as a farewell to his betrothed.


Burns worked for the final ten years of his life on projects to preserve traditional Scottish songs for the future. In all, Burns had a hand in preserving over 300 songs for posterity, the most famous being Auld Lang Syne. He worked on this project for James Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803) and for George Thomson's five-volume A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice. Burns had intended the work to be published as part of Thomson's selection. However, he wrote to a friend that Thomson and he disagreed on the merits of that type of song. "What to me appears to be the simple and the wild, to him, and I suspect to you likewise, will be looked on as the ludicrous and the absurd."
Instead, Burns gave the song to Scots singer Pietro Urbani who published it in his Scots Songs. In his book, Urbani claimed the words of The Red Red Rose were obligingly given to him by a celebrated Scots poet, who was so struck by them when sung by a country girl that he wrote them down and, not being pleased with the air, begged the author to set them to music in the style of a Scots tune, which he has done accordingly. In other correspondence, Burns referred to it as a "simple old Scots song which I had picked up in the country."

Urbani published the song to an original tune that he wrote. The song appeared in Johnson's Museum in 1797 to the tune of Neil Gow's "Major Graham" which was the tune that Burns wanted. In 1799, it appeared in Thomson's Scottish Airs set to William Marshall's Wishaw's Favourite with the lyric "And fare thee weel awhile" changed
The song became more popular when Robert Archibald Smith paired it with the tune of "Low Down in the Broom" in his Scottish Minstrel book in 1821. This has become the most popular arrangement.


Words, music and chords appear in The Andy M. Stewart Collection, pub. 1998

0, my love is like a red, red rose,
that's newly sprung in June.
0, my love is like a melody,
that's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
so deep in love am I,
And I will love 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!
And I will love thee still, my dear,
while the sands of life shall run.

And fare the weel, my only love!
And fare the well awhile!
And I will come again, my love.
Tho it were ten thousand mile!