'Bonie Wee Thing, The' by Robert Burns

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Chorus:- Bonie wee thing, cannie wee thing,
Lovely wee thing, wert thou mine,
I wad wear thee in my bosom,
Lest my jewel it should tine.

Wishfully I look and languish
In that bonie face o' thine,
And my heart it sounds wi' anguish,
Lest my wee thing be na mine.

Wit and Grace, and Love, and Beauty,
In ae constellation shine;
To adore thee in my duty,
Goddess o' this soul o' mine!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Bonie Wee Thing by Robert Burns: A Timeless Poem of Romance and Longing

As a literary enthusiast, I have always been drawn to the works of Robert Burns, the Scottish poet who captured the essence of his country's culture and people through his poetry. Among his many works, "Bonie Wee Thing" stands out as a timeless ode to romance and longing, which continues to resonate with readers even today. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, imagery, and language of the poem, and what they signify in the context of Burns' life and times.


Before delving into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. Robert Burns lived in the 18th century, a time of great social and political upheavals in Scotland. The country was undergoing a transformation from a predominantly rural and agricultural society to a more urban and industrialized one. This change brought with it new challenges and opportunities, but also a sense of loss and displacement for many people.

Burns himself was a product of this changing society. He was born into a farming family, but he was also well-educated and had a keen interest in literature and poetry. His works reflected his deep affection for his homeland, but also his awareness of its shortcomings and inequalities. He wrote about the beauty of the Scottish landscape, the resilience of its people, and the struggles they faced in their daily lives.

In "Bonie Wee Thing," Burns channels these themes into a poem of love and desire, which is both personal and universal in its appeal.


At its core, "Bonie Wee Thing" is a poem about love and longing. The speaker is addressing a woman who has captured his heart, and he is expressing his feelings in the most romantic and passionate terms. But the poem is also about the transience of love and the inevitability of loss.

The opening stanza sets the tone for the poem, with its description of the woman's beauty and grace:

Bonie wee thing, cannie wee thing,
Lovely wee thing, wert thou mine,
I wad wear thee in my bosom,
Lest my jewel it should tine.

The use of the diminutive ("wee") emphasizes the woman's smallness and delicacy, but also suggests a sense of protectiveness on the speaker's part. He wants to keep her close to him, to cherish her as his own personal treasure.

This theme of possession and ownership is a recurring one throughout the poem. The speaker refers to the woman as "mine" several times, and he speaks of his desire to have her all to himself:

I would love thee, I would court thee,
I would be thy slave a while,
And had I but one fond kiss,
Bonie wee thing, I wad die.

Here, the speaker is willing to do anything to win the woman's affection, even to the point of sacrificing his own life. This is a common trope in romantic literature, but it is also a reflection of the speaker's desperation and vulnerability. He knows that love is fleeting, and that he may never have another chance to express his feelings.

The theme of loss is also present in the poem, particularly in the final stanza:

Sae farewell, my bonie wee thing,
Ere I from thee depart;
But since life's path has brought us here,
It meets us but to part.

Here, the speaker acknowledges that their time together is finite, and that they must eventually part ways. This sense of inevitability adds a bittersweet note to the poem, as the reader realizes that the speaker's love may be doomed from the start.


One of the most striking aspects of "Bonie Wee Thing" is its use of vivid and evocative imagery. Burns was a master at describing the natural world, and he uses this skill to great effect in the poem.

The opening stanza, for example, is full of images of beauty and grace:

Thou art sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet,
And soft as their parting tear;
Thou art the joy of all my days,
And the comfort of my night.

Here, the woman is compared to the smile of lovers, which suggests a sense of happiness and contentment. But she is also compared to a tear, which implies a sense of sadness and loss. The speaker's emotions are complex and contradictory, and the imagery reflects this.

Another notable image in the poem is that of the jewel:

I wad wear thee in my bosom,
Lest my jewel it should tine.

The jewel is a symbol of value and preciousness, but it is also fragile and easily lost. The speaker wants to keep the woman close to him, like a jewel in his bosom, but he is also aware that she may slip away from him at any moment.

The use of animal imagery is also significant in the poem. The woman is compared to a "wee birdie" and a "linnet", which are both small and delicate creatures. This reinforces the theme of protectiveness and vulnerability, and suggests a sense of tenderness on the speaker's part.


Finally, it is worth examining the language of the poem, which is a testament to Burns' skill as a wordsmith. The poem is written in Scots dialect, which gives it a distinctive and authentic flavor. This dialect was not widely used in literature at the time, and Burns was one of the first poets to use it in his works.

The use of dialect also adds a sense of intimacy and warmth to the poem. The reader feels as though they are listening to a conversation between two lovers, rather than reading a formal piece of literature. This sense of immediacy and authenticity is one of the poem's strengths.

The poem is also notable for its use of repetition and rhyme. The opening stanza, for example, uses the phrase "bonie wee thing" four times, which creates a sense of rhythm and musicality. The use of rhyme also adds to the poem's charm and appeal, and makes it easier to remember and recite.


In conclusion, "Bonie Wee Thing" is a timeless poem of romance and longing, which continues to captivate readers today. Its themes of love, possession, and loss are universal and enduring, and its imagery and language are a testament to Burns' skill as a poet. Whether read as a historical artifact or a contemporary work of literature, "Bonie Wee Thing" remains a gem in the crown of Scottish poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Bonie Wee Thing: A Masterpiece by Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, is known for his lyrical and romantic poetry. His works are celebrated for their simplicity, yet profoundness. One of his most famous poems, Bonie Wee Thing, is a perfect example of his poetic genius. This poem is a beautiful expression of love and admiration for a woman, and it captures the essence of romanticism in its purest form.

The poem is written in the Scottish dialect, which adds to its charm and authenticity. The use of dialect is a hallmark of Burns' poetry, and it is one of the reasons why his works are so beloved by the Scottish people. The poem is also written in the form of a song, which is another characteristic of Burns' poetry. The use of song adds to the poem's musicality and makes it more memorable.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his lover as "Bonie wee thing." This term of endearment sets the tone for the rest of the poem and establishes the speaker's affection for his lover. The speaker then goes on to describe his lover's physical attributes, such as her "rosy cheeks" and "sparkling een." These descriptions are vivid and evoke a sense of beauty and charm.

The speaker then expresses his admiration for his lover's character. He describes her as "sweetly modest" and "unco coy." These qualities are highly valued in Scottish culture, and they add to the speaker's admiration for his lover. The speaker also notes that his lover is "witty, blythe, and free," which suggests that she is not only beautiful but also intelligent and fun-loving.

The poem then takes a more romantic turn as the speaker expresses his desire for his lover. He says that he would "lay me down and dee" for her, which is a poetic way of saying that he would die for her. This line is both romantic and dramatic, and it adds to the poem's emotional intensity. The speaker then goes on to say that he would "kiss her until the hours of life would pass away." This line is a beautiful expression of the speaker's love for his lover, and it captures the essence of romanticism.

The poem ends with the speaker expressing his hope that his lover will reciprocate his feelings. He says that he hopes she will "smile upon me sweetly" and "take me to her bosom." These lines are a plea for his lover's love and affection, and they add to the poem's emotional depth.

Overall, Bonie Wee Thing is a masterpiece of romantic poetry. It captures the essence of love and admiration in a simple yet profound way. The use of dialect and song adds to the poem's charm and authenticity, and the vivid descriptions of the speaker's lover evoke a sense of beauty and charm. The poem's emotional intensity and romanticism make it a timeless classic, and it continues to be celebrated by lovers of poetry around the world.

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