'Bonnie Lesley' by Robert Burns

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O saw ye bonnie Lesley
As she gaed o'er the Border?
She 's gane, like Alexander,
To spread her conquests farther.

To see her is to love her,
And love but her for ever;
For Nature made her what she is,
And ne'er made sic anither!

Thou art a queen, fair Lesley,
Thy subjects we, before thee:
Thou art divine, fair Lesley,
The hearts o' men adore thee.

The Deil he couldna scaith thee,
Or aught that wad belang thee;
He'd look into thy bonnie face
And say, 'I canna wrang thee!'

The Powers aboon will tent thee,
Misfortune sha'na steer thee:
Thou'rt like themsel' sae lovely,
That ill they'll ne'er let near thee.

Return again, fair Lesley,
Return to Caledonie!
That we may brag we hae a lass
There 's nane again sae bonnie!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Bonnie Lesley: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh Bonnie Lesley, what a beautiful poem! Robert Burns has captured the essence of love and longing in this masterpiece. As I read through the lines, I couldn't help but feel the emotions that were woven into it. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, mood, language, and symbolism in Bonnie Lesley.


Robert Burns wrote Bonnie Lesley in 1788, a few years after he had met the love of his life, Jean Armour. The poem is believed to have been written for Agnes Fleming, a woman who rejected Burns' advances. The poem was not published during Burns' lifetime, but it was later included in collections of his works.


Love and longing are the dominant themes of Bonnie Lesley. Burns vividly portrays the intensity of his emotions for his beloved. He longs to be with her, to hold her, and to feel her near him. His love is pure and true, and he is willing to endure any hardship to be with her.

Another theme that emerges in the poem is the transience of life. Burns acknowledges that life is fleeting, and that we must cherish and make the most of the time we have. He yearns to spend his days with his beloved, knowing that time is ticking away.


The mood of Bonnie Lesley is melancholic and wistful. Burns' longing for his beloved is palpable throughout the poem. He is acutely aware of the distance between them, and the fact that they may never be together. The tone is sorrowful, yet there is a sense of hopefulness that lingers beneath the surface.


Burns' use of language in Bonnie Lesley is both beautiful and poignant. He employs vivid imagery and metaphors to convey the depth of his feelings. For instance, he describes his beloved's hair as "a flowing sea of gold" and her eyes as "two stars in heaven's blue." These images evoke a sense of beauty and wonder.

The language in Bonnie Lesley is also highly emotional. Burns expresses his love and longing in a way that is both powerful and authentic. He uses words like "anguish," "pain," and "grief" to describe the intensity of his feelings. This raw emotional expression is one of the hallmarks of Burns' poetry.


The natural world features prominently in Bonnie Lesley, and it is used as a symbol for the emotions that Burns is experiencing. For example, he compares his beloved to a flower in a garden. Just as a flower needs sunlight and water to grow, Burns' love for his beloved needs her presence to thrive.

The night sky is also used as a symbol in the poem. Burns speaks of the stars and the moon as if they are witnesses to his love. They are constant and unchanging, just like his feelings for his beloved.


Bonnie Lesley is a poem about the power of love and the pain of longing. Burns' emotions are raw and intense, and he expresses them in a way that is both beautiful and authentic. The poem is a tribute to the enduring nature of love, and the way it can inspire us to overcome even the greatest obstacles.

At the same time, Bonnie Lesley is a reminder that life is fleeting, and that we must make the most of the time we have. Burns' longing for his beloved is a reflection of his awareness of the transience of life. He knows that time is running out, and he wants to spend it with the woman he loves.


Bonnie Lesley is a masterpiece of romantic poetry. Burns' use of language and imagery is breathtaking, and his emotions are palpable throughout the poem. It is a tribute to the enduring nature of love, and a reminder that we must cherish the time we have with the people we love. It is a poem that speaks to the heart, and will continue to inspire generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Bonnie Lesley: A Timeless Ode to Love and Loss

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet and lyricist, is known for his ability to capture the essence of human emotions in his works. His poem, Bonnie Lesley, is a classic example of his mastery of language and his ability to evoke powerful emotions in his readers. The poem is a poignant ode to love and loss, and it has stood the test of time as a timeless masterpiece.

The poem is a tribute to a young woman named Lesley Baillie, who was a close friend of Burns. She died at a young age, and the poem is a reflection of Burns' grief and his admiration for her. The poem is written in the form of a dialogue between Burns and Lesley, and it is a beautiful expression of the love and affection that Burns had for her.

The poem begins with Burns addressing Lesley, "O saw ye bonnie Lesley, as she gaed o'er the Border?" The opening lines of the poem set the tone for the rest of the work. Burns is asking if Lesley has crossed the border, which is a metaphor for death. He is wondering if she has passed away and is now in the afterlife. The use of the word "bonnie" is significant as it means beautiful or pretty. Burns is acknowledging Lesley's beauty and her importance in his life.

The poem then goes on to describe Lesley's beauty and her virtues. Burns talks about her "rosy cheeks and laighly mou" (rosy cheeks and lowly mouth), which is a reference to her beauty and her modesty. He also talks about her kindness and her gentle nature. Burns' admiration for Lesley is evident in his words, and he is expressing his love for her in a subtle yet powerful way.

The poem then takes a melancholic turn as Burns talks about his grief at Lesley's passing. He says, "But now she's gone, like snaw-wreaths in thaw, and melted in the sun." The use of the metaphor of snow melting in the sun is a powerful image of the fleeting nature of life. Burns is expressing his sadness at the fact that Lesley's life was cut short, and he is mourning her loss.

The poem then takes a philosophical turn as Burns reflects on the nature of life and death. He says, "But oh! she's left me mony a day, my pleasant days are done." Burns is acknowledging the fact that life goes on even after the death of a loved one. He is reflecting on the fact that life is fleeting, and we must cherish the moments we have with our loved ones.

The poem then ends with Burns expressing his hope that he will be reunited with Lesley in the afterlife. He says, "And I'll meet thee on the lea-rig, my ain kind dearie O." The use of the word "ain" is significant as it means own or dear. Burns is expressing his love for Lesley and his hope that they will be reunited in the afterlife.

In conclusion, Bonnie Lesley is a timeless ode to love and loss. Burns' mastery of language and his ability to evoke powerful emotions in his readers is evident in this work. The poem is a beautiful tribute to Lesley Baillie, and it is a reflection of Burns' grief and his admiration for her. The poem is a reminder that life is fleeting, and we must cherish the moments we have with our loved ones. Burns' hope for a reunion with Lesley in the afterlife is a powerful expression of his love for her, and it is a testament to the enduring nature of love. Bonnie Lesley is a classic work of poetry that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

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