The Origin of the 'Roses Are Red Violets Are Blue' Poem

Where did the ultimate Valentine's Day cliché come from and where does it go?

By: THURSD. | 06-04-2024 | 3 min read
Roses are red violets are blue originHeader-on Thursd

We all know the phrase "Roses are red, violets are blue..." The ultimate cliché for Valentine's Day. But there are so many more beautiful, mostly unknown, poems about flowers. Flowers have inspired people for centuries, also writers of poems...

First: The Original 'Roses Are Red'

The original version of the poem has been corrupted in many ways over the centuries. Yes, centuries, because the original one - as far as we know - was written in 1590 by Sir Edmund Spenser. His poem The Faery Queen is an allegorical work in praise of Elizabeth I and her virtues (such as temperance, chastity, friendship, and courtesy, among others). Spenser wrote that one of his intentions was that the reading of this work should 'fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle disciple'.


"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."


Roses are red violets are blue poems- on Thursd
Photo by Smithsonian Gardens


The First Spin-Off

In 1784 there is another mention of roses that are red in a poem by Joseph Ritson. We might call this the first spin-off. Yet, this looks already a lot more like the words we use in so many versions today.

"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"


Photo byArtmajeur


Les Misérables

The beloved words traveled beyond Britain as well. Did you know that the famous French novelist Victor Hugo lets one of the characters in Les Misérables sing:

"Les bleuets sont bleus, les roses sont roses,
Les bleuets sont bleus, j'aime mes amours."

Violets are blue, roses are red,
Violets are blue, I love my loves.

The Graphics Fairy
Image by The Graphics Fairy


Corruptions All Over

It's easy if you have that one line 'Roses are red, violets are blue', and let your imagination fill in the rest of the poem, depending on the situation or occasion. Perhaps that's why this rhyme has become so immensely popular for lovers and haters alike. What sticks is the overwhelming usage around Valentine's Day. Since so many words rhyme with 'blue' there are endless possibilities even for non-poets to make a wonderful poem. So, roses are red, violets are blue, it's time for you to fill out the blank and have fun creating a romantic phrase!


Blue Violets- on Thursd
Image by Fineart America


Symbolism Behind Red Roses and Blue Violets

Generally, it is a common tendency to compare a loved one with a beautiful flower, in this case, red roses and blue violets are great to express the romanticism of words towards your loved ones or yourself. So, among the millions of love poems, this poem has been indeed the most popular one for long years. It's now time to know more about why red roses and blue violets portray the main characters behind the romantic poem. 

Roses are flowers that define and represent love universally. Red is also the color that is treated as the color of love. On the other side, violet is a commonly used color in bouquets specially used as gifts for Valentine's Day. Violet color is the color of faithfulness, simplicity, modesty, and, humanity.


Roses are red poem- on Thursd
Photo by Fantasy Flowers


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