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The national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, wrote this poem on parting with his beloved. ‘Ae fond kiss’ was written in 1791 and published in 1792. Burns wrote this poem as the last letter to his lover, who was leaving Scotland forever. Burns wanted this poem to be a song, collaborated with music, specifically Rory Dallas’ Port.
This poem is divided into three short stanzas of eight lines, each having a couplet at the end. Burns applied the peculiar rhyme scheme, Iambic tetrameter, to catch the attention of the readers. This poem of Burns became highly recognizable as he chose the Scottish dialect to pen down his thoughts.
The poem begins with the speaker asking his lady lover for one last kiss before they separate. They must leave each other forever, and that’s why this kiss is going to be their last kiss. The speaker promises at this parting hour that he will honor his lover’s memory whenever he weeps with deep sorrow. There is ‘dark despair’ inside him, which even light can’t touch.
The speaker is down with the weight of wistful memories of the past. He repents that those days will never come again. The speaker decides to tribute those old days to his lady. The speaker considers himself to be truly unhappy because he has no hope of a joyful future. There is nothing left in his life that will inspire him to keep going. The only thing he can feel or see is the deep dark hollow of hopeless sorrow.
Though the lover is in pain, he never criticizes himself for loving his beloved so profoundly and being attracted too easily. Burns finishes this poem with the speaker accepting the positive things that his lover brought her, from peace to pleasure. Instead of coming to terms, the poet repeats the first line of the poem to create a circular rhythm.
Ae Fond Kiss Themes
The Cost Of Love
In his poem ‘Ae fond kiss,’ Robert Burns describes the pain that comes with losing a lover. The emotional breakdown is so severe that the poet goes on to ask whether love is worth this cost or is it better never to love anyone at all.
The speaker first confronts that love is not worthy of the pain of heartbreak. He repents why he fell in love in the first place if the heartbreak was the ultimate result. But all of a sudden, he changes his tone and gets ready to pay homage to his beloved for this one last lovely moment with her.
Thus questions may arise that if love is worthy of the cost? This particular poem of Robert Burns beautifully answers this question. If you are in love with someone, you must accept that you are at the mercy of your earthly desires. If you ever love someone, love with an ocean full of love. You have to give them your whole; otherwise, there is no point in loving.
The poet significantly portrays his pain in this poem which he is willing to tribute to his beloved. He puts his ‘heart-wrung tears’ into the glass of wine and toasts to his beloved to make that parting moment memorable. Burns deliberately repeats the lines to emphasize that the price he is going to pay is so high. But the speaker will still pay the price for the sake of love.
Love and Selflessness
The poem ‘Ae fond kiss’ indeed describes a generous love for another person. At the very beginning of the poem, the speaker seems to be more focused on himself. Mainly he expresses his pain and sorrow. As the poem progresses, the speaker turns his focus to his beloved and his experience of her.
He accepts that the pain is so terrible because his love is real. Though he is submerging in the ocean of sorrow and grief, he never wishes his beloved to feel the same pain. He surprisingly wished for love and joy for his lady. The speaker doesn’t care about the fact that the love won’t come from him.
As the poem implies, genuine love needs selflessness. True love will only be considered when you overlook your happiness and wish joy and pleasure for your beloved, even if that doesn’t include you.
Somewhere the pain of the speaker lessens by the sense of faithfulness to his lover. He never expects the same devotion from his beloved. He wishes his lover to find a new mate, showing that he prioritizes his lover. Even in such a damned situation, his lover’s happiness is the most important thing for the speaker.
Robert Burns begins his poem by utilizing ‘ae fond kiss,’ which later turns into the title of the poem. This is one of the many moments where a little interpretation of the Scottish dialect becomes necessary. By the word ‘ae,’ the poet means ‘only one.’
The speaker informs the readers that this very hour is their parting hour. They only shared a ‘fond’ kiss before they goodbye to each other. It is quite clear that this poem stands in for that last parting kiss.
The following lines beautifully portray the past and the future condition of the speaker’s heart. He is shattered by the end of their love affair and also doubts his existence without his lover.
The speaker goes on to say that he has been painted black with an intense color of grief. A ‘dark despair’ is constantly following him and trying to take him under its mantle. The contradictory pictures of the last two lines of the first stanza reflect the inner conflict of the speaker.
The second stanza, to some extent, is the repetition of the first stanza. Burns says that whatever good or bad is going inside his heart is not his fault. He will never blame his passion for what he is experiencing at this darkest hour.
Then the speaker says that loving her was the simplest thing he has ever done in his life. The moment he saw her, he felt the love, eternal love.
In the following lines, the poet uses parallel syntax to form a possible alternative reality where he never gets his lover wholly. While describing a dream world, the poet boldly says that they would have never ended up with broken hearts. That’s the kind of love the speaker possesses for his lover.
Again the poet uses parallel syntax to bid his lover farewell. Alternatively, he calls his lover the ‘fairest’ and the ‘dearest.’ By now, it’s apparent that she was everything for the speaker as he considers her to be his ‘joy and treasure.’
She only has good in her, and that’s why she could bring him ‘peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure!’. The speaker wasn’t ready for this heartbreak.
At the very end of the poem, the poet recites the first lines of the poem. It highlights the fact that the speaker will never get over this sorrow. He has to live with it for the rest of his life.