Holy Willie’s Prayer

Holy Willie’s Prayer
And send the Godly in a pet to pray.
— Alexander Pope.

O Thou that in the Heavens does dwell!
Wha, as it pleases best thysel,
Sends ane to Heaven and ten to Hell,
		A’ for Thy glory!
And no for ony gude or ill
		They’ve done before Thee.—

I bless and praise Thy matchless might,
When thousands Thou has left in night,
That I here before Thy sight,
		For gifts and grace,
A burning and a shining light
		To a’ this place.—

What was I, or my generation,
That I should get such exaltation?
I, wha deserv’d most just damnation,
		For broken laws
Sax thousand years ere my creation,
		Thro’ Adam’s cause!

When from my mother’s womb I fell,
Thou might hae plunged me deep in hell,
To gnash my gooms, and weep, and wail,
		In burning lakes,
Where damned devils roar and yell
		Chain’d to their stakes.—

Yet I am here, a chosen sample,
To shew Thy grace is great and ample:
I’m here, a pillar o’ Thy temple
		Strong as a rock,
A guide, a ruler and example
		To a’ Thy flock.—

[O Lord thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, and swearers swear,
And singin’ there, and dancin’ here,
		Wi’ great an’ sma’;
For I am keepet by the fear,
		Free frae them a’.—]

But yet—O Lord—confess I must—
At times I’m fash’d wi’ fleshly lust;
And 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 living plague,
		To my dishonor!
And 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 L—d, 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 fleshy thorn
Buffet Thy servant e’en and morn,
Lest he o’er proud and high should turn,
		That he’s sae gifted;
If sae, thy hand maun e’en be borne
		Untill Thou lift it.—

Lord bless Thy Chosen in this place,
For here Thou has a chosen race:
But God, confound their stubborn face,
		And blast their name,
Wha bring thy rulers to disgrace
		And open shame.—

Lord mind Gaun Hamilton’s deserts!
He drinks, and swears, and plays at cartes,
Yet has sae mony taking arts
		Wi’ Great and Sma’,
Frae God’s ain priest the people’s hearts
		He steals awa.—

And when we chasten’d him therefore,
Thou kens how he bred sic a splore,
And set the warld in a roar
		O’ laughin at us:
Curse Thou his basket and his store,
		Kail and potatoes.—

Lord hear my earnest cry and prayer
Against that Presbytry of Ayr!
Thy strong right hand, Lord, mak it bare
		Upon their heads!
Lord visit them, and dinna spare,
		For their misdeeds!

O Lord my God, that glib-tongu’d Aiken!
My very heart and flesh are quaking
To think how I sat, sweating and shaking,
		An' pish’d wi’ dread,
While Auld wi’ hingin lip gaed sneaking
		And hid his head!

Lord, in thy day o’ vengeance try him!
Lord visit him that did employ him!
And pass not in thy mercy by them,
		Nor hear their prayer;
But for thy people’s sake destroy them,
		An' dinna spare!

But Lord, remember me and mine
Wi’ mercies temporal and divine!
That I for grace and gear may shine,
		Excell’d by nane!
And a’ the glory shall be thine!
		Amen! Amen!
Robert Burns
Robert Burns

If ever a poet understood the character of his nation, he was Robert Burns. The language he was most fluent in wasn’t so much Scots or English – it was the language of the heart. All too human in his personal life, he carried that humanity over onto the page. Nothing was too small or too large to escape his notice, from a mouse in the mud to God in his heavens. A poet for all seasons, Burns speaks to all, soul to soul.

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