Origin of ‘Roses are Red’

We’ve all heard (and some of us might have even written) some variation of the classic love poem “Roses are Red.” It’s a simple four-line stanza with an equally simple rhyme scheme:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Sugar is sweet

And so are you

And while this poem in itself comes off as something like a simple nursery rhyme, what if I were to tell you that its origins transform it into but a piece of a much greater work? While the modern-day usage is far from word-for-word compared to its ancestral use, the similarities are quite clear.

It was upon a Sommers shynie day,

When Titan faire his beames did display,

In a fresh fountaine, farre from all mens vew,

She bath’d her brest, the boyling heat t’allay;

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,

And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forest grew.

This excerpt is from the epic poem The Faerie Queene, written in 1590 by Sir Edmund Spenser, specifically Book Three, Canto 6, Stanza 6. For those of you who might not know, this poem is meant to reflect Elizabethan virtues (such as temperance, chastity, friendship and courtesy, among others) in the forms of various knights during their travels, as each of these virtues is challenged and tested. The work itself spans across seven different books, the seventh and final being incomplete, though Sir Spenser’s original intent was to compile a body of twelve separate books. But, I digress.

Other origin stories regarding “Roses are Red” can arguably be found in more content-similar sources. As the poem itself is one so simple in structure, content and rhyme scheme, it stands to reason to find that inspiration may very well have been drawn upon from the likes of actual nursery rhymes – in this case, “Gammer Gurton’s Garland: Or the Nursery Parnassus,” a collection of English nursery rhymes written by Joseph Ritson in 1784. The specific excerpt inclusive of the source for the modern-day poem is as follows:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.

Thou art my love and I am thine;

I drew thee to my Valentine:

The lot was cast and then I drew,

And Fortune said it shou’d be you

Even more obvious than Spenser’s usage in “The Faerie Queene,” this practically shows the modern nursery rhyme verbatim within the body of the poetry itself. And considering the fact that this is literally from a book of nursery rhymes and how the poem is viewed in the modern day, it makes even more sense to associate the origins with “Roses are Red” to this work, whether many of us were even aware of its existence of not. There is, however, one body of work from which the poem may very well have evolved that many of us have heard about. The original two-line excerpt follows:

Les bleuets sont bleus, les roses son roses

Les bleuets sont bleus, j’aime mes amours

Translated from its original French, “The violets are blue, the roses are red, the violets are blue, I love my loves.” This is part of the body of a song sung by the character Fantine within the time-tested work Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Some speculate that he may have been familiar with Spenser and his work, “The Faerie Queene,” and perhaps drew inspiration from such, though to say one way or another definitively is a rather moot point. However, it is still interesting to note how so simple a poem in both structure and content can have such a lustrous background concerning its possible origin story.

Song Lyric Metaphors: Devil In Disguise

One thing that this site has made clear is the fact that metaphors are not meant to be taken literally. This is one of my all time favorite Elvis songs. This is mostly due to the fact that the music coincides with the lyrics. The slow angelic music in the beginning juxtaposed against the devilish Rock N Roll music of the chorus gives this song so many layers.

For those who have been paying attention, the lyrics start off with three similes: You look like an angel, walk like an angel and talk like an angel. And then they hit you in the face with a metaphor: You’re the devil in disguise.

In this case, Elvis means that the woman’s actions are so devious that even though she appears sweet and friendly on the outside, that on the inside she isn’t as she seems. It’s like the old attorney versus lawyer debate! Check it out below and let me know what you think:

You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
Oh, yes, you are
The devil in disguise
You fooled me with your kisses
You cheated and you schemed
Heaven knows how you lied to me
You’re not the way you seemed
You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
Oh, yes, you are
The devil in disguise
I thought that I was in heaven
But I was sure surprised
Heaven help me, I didn’t see
The devil in your eyes
You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
Oh, yes, you are
The devil in disguise
You’re the devil in disguise
Oh, yes, you are
The devil in disguise
Oh, yes, you are
The devil in disguise

Metaphors in Song Lyrics: Afternoon Delight

Made popular again by its use in Anchorman (which I am sure made their estate a ton of money), “Afternoon Delight” was originally recorded in 1976 by the Starland Vocal Band. In this case, there’s metaphors and euphemism as discussed in our last post. The euphemism is painfully obvious – substituting sex with the phrase of afternoon delight. And who can’t help but roll their eyes at the euphemism of rubbing sticks and stones together make the sparks ignite!  sky rockets in flight

The metaphor, however, is a bit more subtle. In the song, they compare sky rockets in flight to afternoon delight. To me, they are basically saying something as wonderful and magical as sky rockets flying in the air is the same as some really good sex! Take a listen to the song and read the lyrics below:

Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight
Gonna grab some afternoon delight
My motto’s always been ‘when it’s right, it’s right’
Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?
When everything’s a little clearer in the light of day
And we know the night is always gonna be there any way
Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ingite
And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting
Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Started out this morning feeling so polite
I always though a fish could not be caught who wouldn’t bite
But you’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might try nibbling
A little afternoon delight
Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Please be waiting for me, baby, when I come around
We could make a lot of lovin’ ‘for the sun goes down
Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ingite
And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting
Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight!

Favorite Metaphors In Song Lyrics: TLC

You cannot think of the 1990s without thinking of this mega hit from the girl group TLC. This song is not about the dangers of boating but in fact, the chorus is one of the greatest song metaphors of all time. Waterfalls represent something that is beautiful, distant and out of sight. And although it’s great to chase dreams, sometimes in the pursuit of our happiness we can get hurt. The music video accurately represents gang violence as well as the HIV/Aids epidemic that was happening in the 90s to give an even deeper meaning to this song.

Watch the music video and read the lyrics below:

A lonely mother gazing out of her window
Staring at a son that she just can’t touch
If at any time he’s in a jam she’ll be by his side
But he doesn’t realize he hurts her so much

But all the praying just ain’t helping at all
‘Cause he can’t seem to keep his self out of trouble
So he goes out and he makes his money the best way he knows how
Another body laying cold in the gutter
Listen to me

[Chorus:]
Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast

Little precious has a natural obsession
For temptation but he just can’t see
She gives him loving that his body can’t handle
But all he can say is “Baby, it’s good to me.”

One day he goes and takes a glimpse in the mirror
But he doesn’t recognize his own face
His health is fading and he doesn’t know why
Three letters took him to his final resting place
Y’all don’t hear me

[Chorus (2x)]

Come on

I seen a rainbow yesterday
But too many storms have come and gone
Leavin’ a trace of not one God-given ray
Is it because my life is ten shades of gray
I pray all ten fade away
Seldom praise Him for the sunny days

And like His promise is true
Only my faith can undo
The many chances I blew
To bring my life to anew
Clear blue and unconditional skies
Have dried the tears from my eyes
No more lonely cries

My only bleedin’ hope
Is for the folk who can’t cope
With such an endurin’ pain
That it keeps ’em in the pourin’ rain
Who’s to blame
For tootin’ ‘caine into your own vein
What a shame
You shoot and aim for someone else’s brain
You claim the insane
And name this day in time
For fallin’ prey to crime
I say the system got you victim to your own mind
Dreams are hopeless aspirations
In hopes of comin’ true
Believe in yourself
The rest is up to me and you

[Chorus (2x)]

Favorite Metaphors In Song Lyrics: Weezer

Every now and then, you hear a metaphor that really touches your soul. If you are unaware of what a Metaphor means, the definition states that it is a comparison between two things that aren’t alike but have something in common.

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore.”

While that might be the best example, there a few however that stand out above the rest. One of my all time favorite’s is in the Weezer Song “Run Over By A Truck” off of their 7th studio album “Raditude”.

In this song, Rivers Cuomo the head writer for the band Weezer compares his depressed mental state to the feeling like he’s been run over by a truck. And for anyone who has felt depressed before can attest to, that is a very accurate description for feeling depressed.

Take a listen to the song and read the lyrics below. Do you agree that this is one of the greatest metaphors in song lyrics?

I used to sing songs at the break of the day
Zip a de do da, zip a dee ay
Workin’ myself into a frenzy
But I don’t do that no more no way

I used to likea learn how to speaka Chinese
Oh kudasai means “Baby, would ya please?”
Conjugatin’ verbs with the greatest of ease
But I fell down hard on my bended knees

I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck
I don’t care much about anything
I’m happy to sing
I’m lacking the passion to do anything
I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck
I don’t care much about anything
So give me a ring
And tell me to wake up and do anything

I used to play b-ball down at the park (park)
Running up the sideline until it got dark (dark)
Outside step over with my right foot
Push off with the outside of my left foot

I used to chat up the girls out in the club
Looking for one of ’em to give me some love
The show wasn’t over til the dough boy come home
Young fat dog I love everyone

I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck
I don’t care much about anything
I’m happy to sing
I’m lacking the passion to do anything
I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck
I don’t care much about anything
So give me a ring
Tell me to wake up and do anything

Grandma never was a pushover
Ain’t nobody try to step to her
She could teach a common hustler to dance in France
Til a plane came a crashing down
On the way to see the Cleveland Brown
She was scrambling on fourth down
How I wish that I had been around
Oh
I wish that I had been around

I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck
I don’t care much about anything
I’m happy to sing
I’m lacking the passion to do anything
I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck
I don’t care much about anything
So give me a ring
Tell me to wake up and do anything
I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck