Robert Burns - Song (Ae fond kiss)


Background Information

Poet from the Romanticism period.

Came from a farming background = different view point than upper class poets, similar to William Blake. 

Poem was written after his last meeting with Agnes Maclehose; a woman whom Burns' had a platonic love affair with.

Theme of saying good bye for the last time. 

Uses song to express his distress at the finality of the pairs relationship.

Sense of kindness within the poem. 

Not only attributes more than physical beauty to the woman(unlike many poems in the anthology, e.g. The Scrutiny, The Flea) it shows the strength of the persona's feelings that he once had towards his ex lover.

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Title - Ae fond kiss

Ae fond kiss 

  • Scottish dialect = authentic feel. Burns often used his writing to celebrate Scotland.                                
  • "Ae" means only = Only a fond kiss, but it was still only a kiss.  
  • "Fond" = implies great memories
  • "Kiss" = suggests passion 

Nostaglic joy of the memories and what the lovers had together. 

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Stanza 1

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;

Ae fareweel, and then for ever!

Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, 

Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. - 

"sever" = putting an end to the relationship, suggests sudden and painful separation

"sever" and "for ever" rhyming = amplifies a sense of death and finality, they cannot rekindle their love. Intensity of their parting. 

Semantic field of romantic suffering = "heart-wrung tears" "Warring sighs and groans" 

"I'll pledge thee" = pledges an oath that he will be wringing out the tears of his heart forever, idea of a stereotypical heartbreak but emphasises his pain. Links to Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

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Stanza 2

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him, 

While the star of hope she leaves him:

Me, nae chearful twinkle lights me; 

Dark despair around benights me. - 

Capitalisation of "Fortune" = Personification, fortune will not sympathise with the persona.

"Star of hope" = seems as though it has gone along with the woman, the persona is left alone to suffer, physically & emotionally. Another way to interpret this phrase is that the persona may still feel there is a chance the two can rekindle their love, yet this argument is perhaps discredited by the couple "sever" in the first stanza. 

"nae (no) chearful twinkle lights...dark despair" = contrast of missing light and impending doom of darkness. Alliteration "dark despair" reinforces the persona's suffering that he cannot escape, "benights" emphasises the power of the darkness, could this suggest the power their relationship once had?

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Stanza 3

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy

Naething could resist my Nancy:

But to see her, was to love her; 

Love but her, and love for ever. - 

"I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy," = the fondess is still there, he remains enchanted by her memory & there is no bitterness between them. He is committed to her and therefore biased.

"my Nancy" = "my" is ironic, she is no longer his. 

Repitition of "love" = implies the deep affection and true respect he has for the woman.

Their instant connection and love at first sight is echoed thoughout this stanza. 

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Stanza 4

Had we never lov'd sae kindly,

Had we never lov'd sae blindly!

Never met - or never parted,

We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

"Had we never lov'd sae kindly, Had we never lov'd sae blindly!" = anaphora, shows he is questioning their journey . Adverbs "kindly" & "blindly" show the intensity of affection and suggest that love is blinding.

Stanza is reflective, past tense, he questions their entire journey together. 

"lov'd" = broken apart, central in location to the poem but also central to the meaning of the poem. 

"We had ne'er been broken-hearted" = realisation of how big the void will be without his lover. 

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Stanza 5

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!

Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!

Thine be ilka joy and treasure, 

Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!

"first and and dearest!" = superlative praise, she matches all his romanticised ideas. 

"Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!"Persona wishes good things for the woman, suggests genuine affection, contrast to other poems where the persona focuses on themselves as a person, rather than others. Capitialisation is powerful, not phsyical relationship, they had an emotional connection. Persona seeks to support his lover with hopes for the future.

Use of exclamantion marks, especially in this stanza amplify the light-hearted tone and peaceful positivity to the love that he had. 

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Stanza 6

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!

Ae fareweel, Alas, for ever!

Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, 

Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. -

" for ever" = the split of forever implies that this is final.

"pledge" "wage" = no demeaning of lover, persona knows that he will suffer without her; it is inevitable. 

"sighs and groans" = emotive onomatopoeic focus.

Near repitition of opening stanza, emphasises stagnation of a broken heart. 

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Rhyme Scheme

Simplistic structure:

  • 6 quatrains, AABB
  • Metre causes each line to end with an unstressed syllable, called feminine endings. This leads to feminine rhymes and gives the poem a sad, melancholic rhythm.
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This is amazing! Such a helpful resource thank you!

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