Tag Archives: Holy-Willie

Holy Willie’s Prayer

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/works/holy_willies_prayer/

“One of Burns’s most scathing, and certainly his most famous attack on religious hypocrisy is the satire ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’. Written in 1785, the poem was inspired by William Fisher, an elder of Mauchline Kirk. As such, Burns’s ‘Holy Willie’ considers himself to be one of the religious ‘elect’; one who is preordained for heaven.

Burns uses biblical language to convey the obvious irony present in the idea that Holy Willie is a ‘chosen sample’. The notion of the corrupt Willie as ‘a pillar o’ thy temple’ insinuates the instability of a Kirk and community directed by hypocrites.

The idea of Willie as ‘a guide, a buckler an’ example/To a’ thy flock’ not only serves to stress the subject’s delusion, but to reinforce his ordinariness as a human being subject to natural physicality, something that Burns exploits to the utmost in this sustained derision of religious fanaticism and hypocrisy. Willie is in fact human and as such, he is necessarily subject to physical desires.

Burns further exposes Holy Willie’s hypocrisy by elaborating upon the contradictory nature of his address. Willie confesses that he has indeed had a sexual encounter, but vows ‘ne’er to lift a lawless leg/ Again upon her’ if God forgives him and so, Willie admits that he himself has broken one of the laws of religion that he claims to uphold. Burns immediately follows this with another confession, ‘wi’ Leezie’s lass three times I trow’, indicating not only a lack of sincerity on the part of this famous hypocrite, but a lack of fear of God.

And so, in this poem Burns clearly attacks the misguided complacency of those who consider themselves to be ‘elect’, whilst reinforcing the idea of the physical as an unavoidable reality of human nature, to expose his subject’s hypocrisy.”
Pauline Gray from the BBC website

English: Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert bur...

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Epitaph On Holy Willie

Here Holy Willie’s sair worn clay  Taks up its last abode;  His saull has ta’en some other way,  I fear, the left-hand road. 
Stop! there he is, as sure’s a gun,  Poor, silly body, see him;  Nae wonder he’s as black’s the grun,  Observe wha’s standing wi’ him. 
Your brunstane devilship, I see,  Has got him there before ye;  But haud your nine-tail cat a wee,  Till ance you’ve heard my story. 
Your pity I will not implore,  For pity ye have nane;  Justice, alas! has gi’en him o’er,  And mercy’s day is gane. 
But hear me, Sir, deil  as ye are,  Look something to your credit;  A coof  like him wad stain your name,  If it were kent ye did it.

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Holy Willie’s Prayer

Holy Willie’s Prayer is a poem that was written about a certain Willie Fisher who was an elder in the Parish church of Mauchline, in Ayrshire. Fisher was a hypocrite and himself a sinner who spied on people and reported them to the minister if he thought they were doing wrong.

The poem is a satire based on Fisher’s sickly self-righteousness. The phrase “Holy Willie” have become part of the Scots language for describing someone that is humourless and ultra religious.

Note: Burns was a God fearing man. This poem is not anti religion. It is stricly a condemnation of religious hypocrisy and self righteousness.

O Thou, that in the heavens does dwell,  As it pleases best Thysel’,  Sends aen to Heaven an’ ten to Hell,  For Thy glory,  And no for onie guid 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 deserv’d most just damnation  For broken laws,  Six thousand years ‘ere my creation,  Thro’ Adam’s cause.
When from my mither’s womb I fell,  Thou might hae plung’d me deep in hell,  To gnash my gums, and 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’ singing here, an’ dancin there,  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 worldly 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 has a chosen race!  But God confound there stuborn face,  An’ blast their name,  Wha brings Thy elders to disgrace  An’ open shame.
Lord, mind Gaw’n Hamilton’s deserts;  He drinks, an’ swears, an’ plays at cartes,  Yet has sae mony takin arts,  Wi’ great an’ 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 world 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 mak it bare  Upo’ their heads;  Lord visit them, an’ dinna spare,  For their misdeeds.
O Lord my God! that glib-tongu’d Aitken,  My vera heart an’ flesh are quakin,  To think how we stood sweatin, shakin,  An’ pish’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 them,  Nor hear their pray’r,  But for Thy people’s sake destroy them,  An’ dinna spare.
But, Lord, remember me an’ mine  Wi’ mercies temporal and divine,  That I for grace an’ gear may shine,  Excell’d by nane,  And a’ the glory shall be Thine,  Amen, Amen!

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