'My Highland Lassie, O' by Robert Burns

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Nae gentle dames, tho' e'er sae fair,
Shall ever be my muse's care;
Their titles a' are empty show;
Gie me my Highland Lassie, O.
Within the glen sae bushy, O,
Aboon the plain sae rushy, O,
I sit me down wi' right good will,
To sing my Highland Lassie, O.

Oh, were yon hills and valleys mine,
Yon palace and yon gardens fine!
The world then the love should know
I bear my Highland Lassie, O.
Within the glen...

But fickle fortune frowns on me,
And I maun cross the raging sea;
But while my crimson currents flow
I'll love my highland Lassie, O.
Within the glen...

Altho' thro' foreign climes I range,
I know her heart will never change,
For her bosom burns with honor's glow,
My faithful highland Lassie, O.
Within the glen...

For her I'll dare the billows' roar,
For her I'll trace a distant shore,
That Indian wealth may lustre throw
Around my Highland Lassie, O.
Within the glen...

She has my heart, she has my hand,
By sacred troth and honor's band!
Till the mortal stroke shall lay me low,
I'm thine, my highland Lassie, O.
Farewell the glen sae bushy, O!
Farewell the plain sae rushy, O!
To other lands I now must go,
To sing my Highland Lassie, O!

Editor 1 Interpretation

My Highland Lassie, O: A Masterpiece by Robert Burns

Robert Burns is one of the greatest poets that Scotland has ever produced. His works are a beautiful blend of Scottish dialect, lyricism, and storytelling, and have earned him a place among the greatest poets of the English language. One of his most beloved works is "My Highland Lassie, O," a poem that captures the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, the joys of love, and the pain of separation. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this masterpiece.

Historical Context

To fully appreciate Burns' poetry, it is essential to understand the historical context in which it was written. "My Highland Lassie, O" was written in the late 18th century, a time of political and social upheaval in Scotland. The country was still reeling from the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745, which had ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden. The English government had imposed harsh measures to suppress Scottish culture, language, and traditions, and the people of Scotland were struggling to preserve their identity in the face of this repression.

Burns was a voice for the Scottish people, and his poetry celebrated their language, customs, and way of life. "My Highland Lassie, O" is a perfect example of this. It is written in the Scottish dialect, and its imagery is drawn from the rugged landscape of the Highlands. At the same time, it speaks to universal themes of love and longing, making it a timeless work of art.

Form and Structure

"My Highland Lassie, O" is a lyric poem with a simple and straightforward structure. It consists of four stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a consistent ABAB rhyme scheme. The meter is iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has eight syllables and follows a pattern of unstressed-stressed syllables. This creates a musical rhythm that makes the poem easy to recite and memorable.

While the form and structure of the poem are simple, the language and imagery are rich and complex. Burns uses vivid metaphors and similes to create a portrait of the Scottish landscape and its people. He also employs symbolism to convey deeper meanings and emotions.

Imagery and Symbolism

The central image of the poem is the Highland lassie, a beautiful and free-spirited girl who lives in the rugged mountains of Scotland. She represents the beauty and freedom of the Scottish Highlands, and her presence in the poem imbues it with a sense of joy and vitality. Burns uses a variety of metaphors and similes to describe her:

These metaphors and similes create a vivid and memorable portrait of the lassie, and they also serve to connect her to the natural world around her.

Another important symbol in the poem is the Highland mountains themselves. Burns describes them as "the land of the mountain and the flood," suggesting that they are a source of both beauty and danger. They represent the ruggedness and wildness of Scotland, and they also symbolize the challenges that the poet must overcome in order to be with his lassie.

Finally, the river that flows between the poet and his lassie is a symbol of separation and longing. The poet longs to cross the river and be with his lassie, but he is unable to do so. The river represents the barriers that separate people in love, whether they be physical, social, or emotional.


The central theme of "My Highland Lassie, O" is love and longing. The poet is deeply in love with his lassie, and he longs to be with her. He describes her beauty and charm in glowing terms, and he speaks of her as if she were a goddess or a fairy. His love for her is all-consuming, and it fills him with joy and happiness.

At the same time, the poet is painfully aware of the barriers that separate him from his lassie. The river that flows between them is a constant reminder of their separation, and he knows that he may never be able to cross it. This creates a sense of sadness and longing in the poem, and it gives it a bittersweet quality.

Another theme of the poem is the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Burns describes the rugged mountains, the rushing rivers, and the wildflowers that grow on the hillsides. He also evokes the sounds and smells of the Highlands, creating a vivid sensory experience for the reader. The beauty of the landscape is a source of joy and inspiration for the poet, and it is also a symbol of the Scottish identity and culture that he is trying to preserve.


The language of "My Highland Lassie, O" is one of its most striking features. Burns wrote in the Scottish dialect, which gives the poem a sense of authenticity and immediacy. He also used a variety of poetic devices, such as alliteration, repetition, and onomatopoeia, to create a musical and rhythmic effect.

One of the most memorable lines in the poem is "O pale, pale now, those rosy lips." This line uses alliteration to create a musical effect, and it also employs repetition to emphasize the poet's longing for his lassie. The word "pale" is repeated twice, creating a sense of fading or loss.

Another example of Burns' use of language is the line "By Ochtertyre grows the aik." This line uses aik, a Scottish dialect word for oak, to create a sense of regional identity and pride. It also utilizes an internal rhyme between "Ochtertyre" and "aik" to create a memorable and musical effect.


"My Highland Lassie, O" is a complex and multi-layered poem that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. At its core, it is a celebration of love and beauty, and a tribute to the Scottish landscape and culture. It is also a reflection of Burns' own experiences and struggles, as he sought to preserve his identity and his language in the face of English repression.

The poem can be read as a lament for a love that is unattainable, or as a celebration of the joys of love and the natural world. It can also be seen as a protest against the forces of repression and conformity that sought to destroy Scottish identity and culture.

In the end, however, it is the beauty and power of Burns' language and imagery that make "My Highland Lassie, O" a masterpiece. His vivid descriptions of the Scottish landscape and his portrayal of the Highland lassie are unforgettable, and his use of the Scottish dialect gives the poem an authenticity and immediacy that transcends time and place.


"My Highland Lassie, O" is a masterpiece of Scottish poetry, and a testament to the genius of Robert Burns. Its themes of love, beauty, and separation are timeless, and its language and imagery are unforgettable. The poem is a celebration of Scottish culture and identity, and a tribute to the power of love and the natural world.

As we read and interpret this poem, we are transported to the rugged mountains of Scotland, to a time and place that is both distant and familiar. We feel the poet's joy and his pain, his longing and his hope. And we are reminded of the enduring power of great poetry to move and inspire us, across centuries and cultures.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

My Highland Lassie, O: A Timeless Ode to Love and Longing

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet and lyricist, is known for his romantic and sentimental works that capture the essence of human emotions. One of his most famous poems, My Highland Lassie, O, is a beautiful ode to love and longing that has stood the test of time.

The poem was written in 1786 and was first published in the Kilmarnock edition of Burns' works. It is a song that tells the story of a young man who is deeply in love with his Highland lassie, but is separated from her by distance and circumstance. The poem is written in the Scots language, which adds to its charm and authenticity.

The poem begins with the speaker describing his Highland lassie, who is the object of his affection. He describes her as "sweetly blushing" and "fair as the early morn". The use of imagery here is striking, as the speaker compares his love to the beauty of nature. The use of the word "blushing" suggests that the lassie is shy and modest, which adds to her appeal.

The speaker then goes on to describe the hardships he faces in being separated from his love. He talks about the "long, long weary day" and the "night that's so lonely". The use of repetition here emphasizes the speaker's sense of loneliness and longing. He is clearly pining for his Highland lassie and is finding it difficult to cope with the distance between them.

The second stanza of the poem is particularly poignant, as the speaker talks about the memories he has of his love. He talks about the "happy hours" they spent together and the "smiling scenes" they shared. The use of the word "smiling" suggests that their time together was filled with joy and happiness. The speaker also talks about the "tearful parting" they experienced, which suggests that their separation was not by choice.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most romantic, as the speaker talks about his undying love for his Highland lassie. He says that he will "love her still" even if they are separated by "seas between us twa". The use of the word "twa" instead of "two" is a nod to the Scots language and adds to the authenticity of the poem. The speaker also talks about the "hopeful prospect" of being reunited with his love, which suggests that he is optimistic about their future together.

The final stanza of the poem is a beautiful conclusion to the speaker's ode to his Highland lassie. He talks about the "blessings" that his love brings him and how she is the "fairest flower in the garden of love". The use of the word "blessings" suggests that the speaker sees his love as a gift from God, which adds to the religious undertones of the poem. The use of the word "garden" suggests that love is something that needs to be nurtured and cared for, just like a flower.

In conclusion, My Highland Lassie, O is a timeless ode to love and longing that captures the essence of human emotions. Robert Burns' use of imagery, repetition, and the Scots language adds to the authenticity and charm of the poem. The speaker's undying love for his Highland lassie is a testament to the power of love and the human spirit. This poem is a true masterpiece of romantic literature that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

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