Poem by Robert Burns: 'Holy Willie's Prayer' (Page 1 of 4)
- This poem takes the form of a dramatic monologue by Willie Fisher to his God, used by Burns to ridicule Willie's belief that he is chosen by God for 'gifts & grace'. This belief means that Willie can get away with anything, while others less fortunate should be punished for all their sins, however minor, including disagreeing with Willie.
- Image Rights Holder:
- National Trust for Scotland
- 618:The Burns Manuscripts at Alloway
- Robert Burns (1759-1796) (author)
- William Fisher (subject of poem)
- The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, South Ayrshire
- This first page starts with a quotation from Alexander Pope 'And send the Godly in a pet to pray', which sets the scene for the poem. The first three verses, seen here, introduce Willie's position - he is one of the few who are chosen to go to heaven. He says he is unworthy, but accepts his place of grace as his due.
O Thou, who in the heavens does dwell,
Who, as it pleases best Thysel',
Sends ane to heaven an' ten to hell,
A' for Thy glory,
And no for ony gude or ill
They've done afore Thee!
I bless and praise Thy matchless might,
When thousands Thou hast left in night,
That I am here afore Thy sight,
For gifts an' grace
A burning and a shining light
To a' this place.
What was I, or my generation,
That I should get sic exaltation,
I wha deserve most just damnation
For broken laws,
Five thousand years ere my creation,
Thro' Adam's cause?
When frae my mither's womb I fell,
Thou might hae plunged me in hell,
To gnash my gums, to weep and wail,
In burnin lakes,
Where damned devils roar and yell,
Chain'd to their stakes.
Yet I am here a chosen sample,
To show thy grace is great and ample;
I'm here a pillar o' Thy temple,
Strong as a rock,
A guide, a buckler, and example,
To a' Thy flock.
O Lord, Thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, an' swearers swear,
An' singin there, an' dancin here,
Wi' great and sma';
For I am keepit by Thy fear
Free frae them a'.
But yet, O Lord! confess I must,
At times I'm fash'd wi' fleshly lust:
An' sometimes, too, in wardly trust,
Vile self gets in:
But Thou remembers we are dust,
Defil'd wi' sin.
O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi' Meg -
Thy pardon I sincerely beg,
O! may't ne'er be a livin plague
To my dishonour,
An' I'll ne'er lift a lawless leg
Again upon her.
Besides, I farther maun avow,
Wi' Leezie's lass, three times I trow -
But Lord, that Friday I was fou,
When I cam near her;
Or else, Thou kens, Thy servant true
Wad never steer her.
Maybe Thou lets this fleshly thorn
Buffet Thy servant e'en and morn,
Lest he owre proud and high shou'd turn,
That he's sae gifted:
If sae, Thy han' maun e'en be borne,
Until Thou lift it.
Lord, bless Thy chosen in this place,
For here Thou hast a chosen race:
But God confound their stubborn face,
An' blast their name,
Wha bring Thy elders to disgrace
An' public shame.
Lord, mind Gaw'n Hamilton's deserts;
He drinks, an' swears, an' plays at cartes,
Yet has sae mony takin arts,
Wi' great and sma',
Frae God's ain priest the people's hearts
He steals awa.
An' when we chasten'd him therefor,
Thou kens how he bred sic a splore,
An' set the warld in a roar
O' laughing at us; -
Curse Thou his basket and his store,
Kail an' potatoes.
Lord, hear my earnest cry and pray'r,
Against that Presbyt'ry o' Ayr;
Thy strong right hand, Lord, make it bare
Upo' their heads;
Lord visit them, an' dinna spare,
For their misdeeds.
O Lord, my God! that glib-tongu'd Aiken,
My vera heart and flesh are quakin,
To think how we stood sweatin', shakin,
An' piss'd wi' dread,
While he, wi' hingin lip an' snakin,
Held up his head.
Lord, in Thy day o' vengeance try him,
Lord, visit them wha did employ him,
And pass not in Thy mercy by 'em,
Nor hear their pray'r,
But for Thy people's sake, destroy 'em,
An' dinna spare.
But, Lord, remember me an' mine
Wi' mercies temp'ral an' divine,
That I for grace an' gear may shine,
Excell'd by nane,
And a' the glory shall be thine,