John Anderson My Jo

John Anderson, my jo, John, When we were first acquent; Your locks were like the raven, Your bonie brow was brent; But now your brow is beld, John, Your locks are like the snaw; But blessings on your frosty pow, John Anderson, my Jo. John Anderson, my jo, John, We clamb the hill the gither; And mony a canty day, John, We've had wi' ane anither: Now we maun totter down, John, And hand in hand we'll go, And sleep the gither at the foot, John Anderson, my Jo.


Eileen McCallum
Lorraine McIntosh

Sally Magnusson

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1789 and is read here by Eileen McCallum.

More about this song

Robert Burns's 'John Anderson My Jo' is a polite adaptation of the traditional bawdy song of the same name. The poet adapted the song in 1790 for inclusion in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum. Burns's version of this song retains the poetic structure of the original, and also adopts the same motif of the ageing body.

However, Burns's 'John Anderson my Jo' (1790) conveys a tender, much more subtle consideration of ageing heterosexual relationships. In Burns's song, a female reminisces about her lover's previously youthful and attractive body - his 'raven locks' and his 'bony brow' - with gentle teasing and notions of fond permanence.

As the song progresses, notions of affection and constancy are conveyed by reference to the couple's shared life, 'We clamb the hill together', and to their shared physical decline, 'Now we maun totter down John'. Finally, the ageing lovers of Burns's song resolve to 'sleep thegither at the foot'.

And so, Burns's 'John Anderson My Jo' is a genuinely charming song in which the poet presents a poignant and emotive consideration of human relationships, and of bodily decline.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this song

love age death

Selected for 14 January

Possibly a 'honeymoon' gift to Jean Armour after their protractedly postponed marriage, this tender tribute to the resilience of wedded love, even into the late winter of life, was written by a man who having at last, and only reluctantly 'settled down', was coming quickly now to see what a committed couple could mean, and give to each other. He would often upset and undervalue Jean but it is fitting, perhaps, that this version of the song is a, 'respectable', 'reformed' revision of Burns's earlier bawdy verses in which a young wife laments and lambasts her much older husband's inability, physically to satisfy her.

Donny O'Rourke

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