Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
Holy Willie’s Prayer
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
O THOU, wha in the Heavens dost dwell,
Wha, as it pleases best thysel’,
Sends ane to Heaven, and ten to Hell,
          A’ for thy glory,
And no for onie guid or ill        5
          They’ve done afore thee!
I bless and praise thy matchless might,
Whan thousands thou hast left in night,
That I am here afore thy sight,
          For gifts an’ grace,        10
A burning an’ a shining light,
          To a’ this place.
What was I, or my generation,
That I should get such exaltation?
I, wha deserve such just damnation,        15
          For broken laws,
Five thousand years ’fore my creation,
          Through Adam’s cause.
When frae my mither’s womb I fell,
Thou might hae plunged me into Hell,        20
To gnash my gums, to weep and wail,
          In burnin’ lake,
Where damned Devils roar and yell,
          Chained to a stake.
Yet I am here a chosen sample,        25
To show thy grace is great and ample;
I’m here a pillar in thy temple,
          Strong as a rock,
A guide, a buckler, an example
          To a’ thy flock.        30
O Lord, thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, and swearers swear,
And singing there, and dancing here,
          Wi’ great and sma’:
For I am keepit by thy fear,        35
          Free frae them a’.
But yet, O Lord! confess I must,
At times I’m fashed wi’ fleshly lust,
An’ sometimes, too, wi’ warldly trust,—
          Vile self gets in;        40
But thou remembers we are dust,
          Defiled in sin.
*        *        *        *        *
Maybe thou lets this fleshly thorn
Beset thy servant e’en and morn,
Lest he owre high and proud should turn,        45
          ’Cause he’s sae gifted:
If sae, thy hand maun e’en be borne,
          Until thou lift it.
Lord, bless thy chosen in this place,
For here thou hast a chosen race;        50
But God confound their stubborn face,
          And blast their name,
Wha bring thy elders to disgrace,
          An’ public shame.
Lord, mind Gawn Hamilton’s deserts,        55
He drinks, an’ swears, an’ plays at cartes,
Yet has sae monie takin’ arts,
          Wi’ great and sma’,
Frae God’s ain priests the people’s hearts
          He steals awa’.        60
An’ when we chastened him therefore,
Thou kens how he bred sic a splore,
As set the warld in a roar
          O’ laughin’ at us;—
Curse thou his basket and his store,        65
          Kail and potatoes.
Lord, hear my earnest cry an’ prayer,
Against that presbyt’ry o’ Ayr;
Thy strong right hand, Lord, make it bare,
          Upo’ their heads;        70
Lord, weigh it down, and dinna spare,
          For their misdeeds.
O Lord my God, that glib-tongued Aiken,
My very heart and saul are quakin’,
To think how we stood sweatin’, shakin’,        75
          An’ swat wi’ dread,
While he wi’ hinging lips gaed snakin’,
          An’ hid his head.
Lord, in the day o’ vengeance try him,
Lord, visit them wha did employ him,        80
And pass not in thy mercy by ’em,
          Nor hear their prayer:
But for thy people’s sake destroy ’em,
          And dinna spare.
But, Lord, remember me and mine        85
Wi’ mercies temp’ral and divine,
That I for gear and grace may shine,
          Excelled by nane,
An’ a’ the glory shall be thine,
          Amen, Amen.        90

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