'A Prayer under Pressure of Violent Anguish' by Robert Burns, born on Jan. 25, 1759

'A Prayer under Pressure of Violent Anguish' by Robert Burns, born on Jan. 25, 1759
Robert Burns.

UPDATE: I originally published this piece on Jan. 25, so I used "born on this date" in the headline. I knew it would get outdated, but I wanted to feel something that Burns could never know -- how strange it is to just hit the button marked "Update" and have the edits I made work their way into the piece. Now that I've edited the headline, I know that it is strange indeed.

The only poetry book that stays in my list of Sustaining Books is a collection of the poems and songs of Robert Burns, who was born on Jan. 25, 1759. I'm going to celebrate his birthday with a group of like-minded friends on Saturday -- and people will be celebrating his poetry all around the world, not only in his native Scotland.

As I look at the world on this "Burns Night," I am reminded of one of my favorite poems, which has helped me regain my resolve in anguished times such as these. Here is the poem, "A Prayer under Pressure of Violent Anguish," with hopes that it will help us all.


A Prayer under Pressure of Violent Anguish

O Thou Great Being! What Thou art

Surpasses me to know;

Yet sure I am, that known to Thee

Are all Thy works below.

Thy creature here before Thee stands,

all wretched and distrest.

Yet sure those ills that wring my soul

Obey Thy high behest.

Sure, Thou, Almighty, canst not act

From cruelty or wrath!

O, free my weary eyes from tears

or close them fast in death!

But, if I must afflicted be,

to suit some wise design,

Then man my soul with firm resolve

to bear and not repine!





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  • Happy Burns Day! Thanks so much for sharing this great poem.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    You're welcome. If only it weren't so appropriate just now.

  • I like what he wrote about our interrelationship with nature:

    "I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
    Has broken Nature’s social union,
    An’ justifies that ill opinion,
    Which makes thee startle,
    At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
    An’ fellow-mortal!"

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you for noting another of my favorite Burns poems, "To a Mouse." I like this part especially.

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