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Poem by Robert Burns: 'Holy Willie's Prayer' (Page 3 of 4)

Introduction:
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
Ref:
BMT313C
Project:
618:The Burns Manuscripts at Alloway
Subject:
Burns describes Willie Fisher as an 'Elder in the parish of Mauchline, and much and justly famed for that polemical chattering which ends in tippling Orthodoxy, and for that Spiritualised Bawdry which refines to Liquorish Devotion - In a Sessional process with a gentleman in Mauchline, a Mr Gavin Hamilton, Holy Willie, and his priest, father Auld, after full hearing of the Presbytery of Ayr, came off but second best'. Gavin Hamilton was a close friend of Burns.
Who:
Robert Burns (1759-1796) (author)
William Fisher (subject of poem)
When:
Where:
The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, South Ayrshire
Background:
Burns describes Willie Fisher as an 'Elder in the parish of Mauchline, and much and justly famed for that polemical chattering which ends in tippling Orthodoxy, and for that Spiritualised Bawdry which refines to Liquorish Devotion - In a Sessional process with a gentleman in Mauchline, a Mr Gavin Hamilton, Holy Willie, and his priest, father Auld, after full hearing of the Presbytery of Ayr, came off but second best'. Gavin Hamilton was a close friend of Burns.
Description:
Willie swears that he will never stray again, but then describes further events, using being drunk as an excuse. He suggests that this 'fleshly thorn' is a test, so that he does not get too arrogant in his state of grace. From his own blessed state, Willie moves on to the punishment of those who are against him. He homes in on Gavin Hamilton's faults and the amount of influence that he has.