‘John Anderson, My Jo’: A Poem by Robert Burns

‘John Anderson, My Jo’ is one of Robert Burns’s finest love poems or love songs. A brief note; ‘jo’ is slang for ‘sweetheart’, and the speaker of the poem is a woman addressing her ageing husband, reassuring him that although his hair may be greying (what remains of it), he is still her ‘jo’ and they will go ‘hand in hand’ together through life. There was also a bawdy version, which Burns probably knew – though it’s the clean version that tends to get anthologised.

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 thegither;
And mony a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.

If you enjoyed Robert Burns’s ‘John Anderson, My Jo’, you might also like our analysis of his famous New Year song, ‘Auld Lang Syne’.


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  2. This is Burns’ version of a slightly earlier song, written by that prolific and often excellent author Anonymous, in which Mrs Anderson, far from wishing to ‘totter down’ the hill with an ageing husband, urges him to take advantage of her personal attractions:
    “From my crown until my tae, John,
    ⁠I’m like the new-fa’n snow;
    And ’tis a’ for your conveniency,
    ⁠John Anderson my jo.”
    by coming to bed earlier. Wiki calls it ‘mildly bawdy’, but in fact it’s rather charming.

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  4. sweet love