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Roses are Red… refer to a variety of short poems featuring rhyme verses that begin with the lines “Roses are red, violets are blue.” While the original poem was used to convey messages of love, many of its derivative versions nullify its sentimental value through subversion, parody and anti-humor.
The first two lines “Roses are red, violets are blue” were inspired by Edmund Spenser’s 16th century epic poem The Faerie Queene, in a section describing a man viewing a fairy woman bathing herself on a summer’s day.
But wondrously they were begot, and bred.
Through influence of th’heauens fruitfull ray,
As it in antique bookes is mentioned.
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 forrest grew.
In the late 18th century, another Roses are Red rhyme was published in the nursery rhyme collection Gammer Gurton’s Garland, titled “The Valentine.”
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 should be you.
Furthermore, Victor Hugo used a similar styling in a song sung by Fantine in his 1862 novel Les Misérables, while the character was reminiscing about a lullaby she used to sing to her daughter Cosette.
We will buy very pretty things
A-walking through the faubourgs.
Violets are blue, roses are red,
Violets are blue, I love my loves.
In 1988, American Children’s Folklore compiled 14 derivatives of the original rhyme, both with positive and negative connotations. Other variants have appeared in a number of television shows, songs, books, films and video games including Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions, Bob Dylan’s 1989 song “Where Teardrops Fall” and the 1991 comedy film What About Bob?.
On October 12, 2006, user E started a thread on Yahoo Answers asking, “Got any funny roses are red, violets are blue poems?” On July 21st, 2012, Reddit user (since deleted) started a thread on /r/AskReddit asking users to, "Give me your best “Roses are red” poem." As of February 2014, the thread has over 900 comments. On Tumblr they are often incorporated into Valentine’s Day e-cards.
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