'Afton Water' by Robert Burns

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stock-dove, whose echo resounds through the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear,
I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far marked with the courses of clear winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Evening sweeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides,
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As gathering sweet flowrets she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Exploring the Beauty and Depth of Robert Burns’ “Afton Water”

If there’s one poet who deserves the title “national bard” of Scotland, it would be Robert Burns. Born in Ayrshire in 1759, Burns became known for his poems and songs that reflected the language and culture of Scotland. He wrote about love, nature, politics, and society, using a mix of Scots and English that gave his work a unique charm and appeal. And among his many works, one that stands out for its beauty and poignancy is “Afton Water.”

First published in 1792, “Afton Water” is a romantic ballad that tells the story of a lover’s farewell to a beloved. The poem is set by the banks of the River Afton, a real river that flows through Ayrshire and inspired many of Burns’ works. In this poem, the river becomes a symbol of the passage of time and the inevitability of change, as well as a backdrop for the lovers’ parting.

The Beauty of Nature

One of the most striking aspects of “Afton Water” is its vivid description of the natural setting. Burns paints a picture of a serene and idyllic landscape, with “green woods” and “flowery banks” that evoke a sense of peace and tranquility. The river itself is described as “clear” and “silver” and “winding,” reflecting the sunlight and creating a sense of movement and flow.

What’s remarkable about Burns’ language is how he captures the details of the natural world with such precision and beauty. He uses sensory images to create a multisensory experience for the reader, such as the “fragrant birks” that “bend their bonnie heads” or the “sweet-scented birk” that “whispers wi’ the wind.” These descriptions not only add to the poem’s aesthetic appeal but also create a sense of intimacy and closeness with the natural world.

The Pathos of Parting

But “Afton Water” is not just a poem about nature; it’s also a poem about human emotions, particularly the sadness and pain of parting. The poem’s speaker addresses his “fairest maid” in a tone of tender affection, expressing his love and devotion for her. He tells her how much he cherishes their time together, and how he wishes he could stay by her side forever.

But then the speaker acknowledges the inevitability of their separation, as he must “gang awa’” and leave his love behind. The mood of the poem turns bittersweet, as the speaker laments the passing of time and the loss of what they had. He says that their love was “sweet as the dew” but now it must wither and die like the “fa’ing flower.”

What’s striking about this part of the poem is how heartfelt and sincere the speaker’s words are. There’s a sense of vulnerability and honesty in his confession, as he reveals his true feelings to his beloved. And there’s also a sense of empathy and compassion, as he acknowledges her pain and sorrow at their parting.

The Symbolism of the River

At the heart of “Afton Water” is the river itself, which serves as a powerful symbol of the passage of time and the transience of life. The river flows steadily, carrying the speaker away from his love and towards an unknown future. It’s an image of motion and change, reminding us that nothing stays the same forever.

But the river is also a symbol of continuity and connection, as it links the past and the present. The river has been flowing long before the speaker’s time, and it will continue to flow long after he’s gone. In this sense, the river represents the timeless nature of love and the human experience, as well as the sense of belonging and rootedness that comes from being part of a larger history and tradition.

The Musicality of Burns’ Language

One aspect of “Afton Water” that can’t be ignored is the musicality of Burns’ language. As a songwriter as well as a poet, Burns had a gift for creating lyrics that were meant to be sung or recited aloud. And “Afton Water” is no exception, with its rhythmical cadence and melodic phrasing.

The poem’s meter is iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four stressed syllables. This gives the poem a strong and steady beat, like the flow of the river itself. And the rhyme scheme is ABAB, which creates a sense of symmetry and balance between the lines.

But what really makes “Afton Water” musical is the use of repetition and alliteration. The repeated use of words like “Afton” and “flow” creates a sense of unity and coherence, while the alliteration of “fa’ing flower” and “flowery banks” adds to the poem’s aesthetic appeal. And of course, there’s the famous chorus, “Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes,” which is both beautiful and haunting.


In “Afton Water,” Robert Burns has created a timeless masterpiece that combines the beauty of nature with the depth of human emotions. The poem’s vivid language, powerful symbolism, and musicality have made it a beloved classic that continues to resonate with readers and listeners today. Whether we’re struck by the poem’s romanticism or its melancholy, its beauty or its pathos, one thing is clear: “Afton Water” is a gem of Scottish literature that deserves to be cherished and celebrated.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium of expression for the human soul. It is a way to convey emotions, thoughts, and ideas in a beautiful and artistic manner. One such masterpiece of poetry is "Afton Water" by Robert Burns. This classic poem is a perfect example of how poetry can capture the essence of nature and love in a few lines.

Robert Burns, also known as the Bard of Ayrshire, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide for his contributions to Scottish literature. Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. He grew up in a poor family and had to work hard to support himself. Despite his humble beginnings, Burns had a passion for poetry and music, which he pursued throughout his life.

"Afton Water" is one of Burns' most famous poems. It was written in 1791 and is a tribute to the beauty of the Afton Water, a small river that flows through Ayrshire. The poem is a lyrical ballad that tells the story of a young couple in love who meet by the banks of the Afton Water. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each of which captures a different aspect of the couple's love story.

The first stanza sets the scene for the poem. Burns describes the beauty of the Afton Water and the surrounding landscape. He uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the river and its surroundings. The stanza begins with the lines, "Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes, / Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise." These lines set the tone for the poem and establish the poet's admiration for the river.

The second stanza introduces the young couple who meet by the banks of the Afton Water. Burns describes the girl as "fair" and "lovely," and the boy as "young" and "handsome." The stanza is filled with romantic imagery, such as "the dew on the gowan" and "the primrose that opens its cauld leafy bed." The stanza ends with the couple sitting by the river, listening to the birds singing and enjoying each other's company.

The third stanza is the most emotional and poignant of the four. It describes the couple's love for each other and their desire to be together forever. Burns writes, "How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills, / Far mark'd with the courses of clear winding rills; / There daily I wander as noon rises high, / My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye." These lines show the depth of the couple's love and their commitment to each other.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close. Burns describes the couple's separation and their longing to be reunited. He writes, "How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below, / Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow; / There oft as mild evening weeps over the lea, / The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me." These lines capture the bittersweet nature of love and the pain of separation.

In conclusion, "Afton Water" is a beautiful and timeless poem that captures the essence of nature and love. Burns' use of vivid imagery and emotional language makes the poem a masterpiece of romantic poetry. The poem has been set to music and has been performed by many artists over the years. It is a testament to the power of poetry and its ability to touch the human soul.

Editor Recommended Sites

Roleplaying Games - Highest Rated Roleplaying Games & Top Ranking Roleplaying Games: Find the best Roleplaying Games of All time
Best Datawarehouse: Data warehouse best practice across the biggest players, redshift, bigquery, presto, clickhouse
Mesh Ops: Operations for cloud mesh deploymentsin AWS and GCP
Play Songs by Ear: Learn to play songs by ear with trainear.com ear trainer and music theory software
ML Platform: Machine Learning Platform on AWS and GCP, comparison and similarities across cloud ml platforms

Recommended Similar Analysis

Think Of The Soul by Walt Whitman analysis
November by William Cullen Bryant analysis
Confined Love by John Donne analysis
Three Sundays In A Week by Edgar Allen Poe analysis
To Joanna by William Wordsworth analysis
To F--S S. O--D by Edgar Allan Poe analysis
Amor Vincit Omnia by Edgar Bowers analysis
The Untold Want by Walt Whitman analysis
I stepped from plank to plank by Emily Dickinson analysis
Dust Of Snow by Robert Frost analysis