John Anderson, My Jo


“John Anderson, My Jo” by Robert Burns idea of romantic love differs from most love poetry, as it reflects on a love that was, and still is, instead of persuading one into a love that could be. Though it consists of many of the typical love poetry tropes such as fading beauty, and life being too short, it goes about them in a different manner. Commonly love poetry speaks of a beauty that currently is, and uses that as a convincing argument as to why the beloved should be with the lover. “John Anderson, My Jo’s” speaker, is a woman speaking to her aged husband or lover, reassuring him that despite his aged face she still loves him. His locks once raven, are now the colour of snow. She tells him, “Your bonie brow was brent;/ But now your brow is beld, John,”(ll.4, 5). Though he has aged she still refers to him as her jo, and says, “But blessings on your frosty pow,/ John Anderson, my jo.” (ll.7, 8). These lines of reassurance to the speaker’s lover leave readers with a peaceful feeling of love. One that is true and has lasted a lifetime,  it defers from most love poetry as it demonstrates devotions to one’s partner and eternal love despite one’s age or beauty. The speaker shares that they have “…clamb the hill thegither;” (l.10) and have lived a life of love with one another.


Its peaceful wording and relation mix well with its simplistic two eight-line stanzas, and the song like form. It is not confusing to readers besides some traditional Scottish wording.  Its peaceful wording, syntax and structure contrast with the idea of death in the second stanza. Death usually is something people fear, it is used as a reason to act fast, and be impulsive. On the contrary “John Anderson, My Jo’s” speaker has accepted the idea and is at peace with it. We can see she is okay with the concept of death when she tells her lover “And monie a canty day, John,/We’ve had wi’ ane anither;” (ll.11, 12) She is reminding her lover and self that they have lived many happy days with one another. We are told that their lives were well lived, and though death is scary, it is also inevitable. The last four lines make the poem feel as though it is a last memory. As if she is remembering her life before she passes, or sharing this memory as her last words with her lover. “Now we maun totter down, John, / And hand in hand we’ll go, /And sleep thegither at the foot, / John Anderson, my jo!” (ll.13-16). Life’s pains and the fear of dying are all put at ease; their love for one another is what allows them to accept death.