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Morality and Immorality and Holy Willie's Prayer and Tam O Shanter - Research Paper Example

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Morality and Immorality in Holy Willie’s Prayer and Tam O’ Shanter Robert Burns, who is considered as the greatest poet Scotland has ever produced, is known his sarcasm when it comes to the issues of morality and immorality. While the subjects that he dealt with in his poems are serious concerns, he managed to inject humor in the lines and stanzas that he writes…
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Morality and Immorality and Holy Willies Prayer and Tam O Shanter
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Download file to see previous pages There are two particular poems that he wrote which clearly exemplify the sarcastic and humorous tone of his style. These are Holy Willie’s Prayer and Tom O’ Shanter. What makes this poem important though is not just that these are prime examples of Burns’ humor-laden writing style. The said poems also provide proof of Burns’ personal perspectives on morality and immorality, as well as the role of religion these matters. The background of Holy Willie’s Prayer alone would already provide a glimpse of how Burns despised hypocrisy, especially if this is committed by men who belong to the church or the ‘kirk’ in 18th century Scotland. The poem is about a real character named William Fisher, a leader of the local church in Mauchline where Burns had stayed. Fisher, with whom Burns shared mutual hate, is described as a “bigoted elder of the Kirk, who with considerable eloquence and the conceit of the humorless, exposes himself as a canting hypocrite” (Head 527). The title of the poem dedicated to him by Burns is already one that actually reeks of sarcasm. The emphasis on the word ‘holy’ comes as a paradox because at the end of the poem, Fisher is portrayed to be asking God to punish his detractors with the lines that disregards the basic Christian concepts of mercy and forgiveness. 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 them their pray’r, But for Thy people's sake destroy them, An’ dinna spare. Holy Willie’s Prayer actually paints a picture of a man, who is expected by many to set the example of how Christians should treat each other, turn out to be just as sinful and immoral as those he may have despised. It is clear that Burns disliked so much how Fisher had behaved as a churchman, whom the parishioners consider to be near infallible and holy when he is actually committing the same immoralities that he preaches against. There are lines in the poem that actually described Fisher’s own improprieties. O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi’ Meg --  Thy pardon I sincerely beg --  O, may’t ne’er be a living plague  To my dishonour!  An’ I'll ne’er lift a lawless leg  Again upon her.  Burns, however, does not criticize Fisher for committing these human frailties. In a very sarcastic tone, he highlights the fact that despite these shortcomings, Fisher still managed to pray that he be forgiven for these ‘minor’ infractions. While he asks mercy, Fisher instead prays to God that his detractors are spared from it and are punished for persecuting him. As it turns out, Willie Fisher’s prayer is basically a portrayal of how a man of the church treats God as a superior that would listen to his pleas more because he is part of the church hierarchy and not for its merits or demerits. The poem provides a picture of Fisher “down on his knees, praying to his God, whom he addresses familiarly as if God were a senior official in the church” (Gerrard 384). Without putting it into words, Burns depicts a situation where the church is actually isolated from the rest of the people, including its laity. The isolation stems from the notion that those who are part of the church hierarchy are not equal with those outside of it, even if they are Christians too. The concept presented in the poem is that God is prone to be more ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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