“Winter: A Dirge,” by Robert Burns

Winter: A Dirge
By Robert Burns

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or, the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,
The joyless winter-day,
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Pow’r Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here, firm, I rest, they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want (O, do Thou grant
This one request of mine!)
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

34 thoughts on ““Winter: A Dirge,” by Robert Burns

  1. Hard to imagine what he would’ve written if he were down here in the desert SW….
    “The tropic south has pursed his mouth,
    and warm, wet storms blow in,
    Or SoCal seas push westward breeze:
    the drying winds flow in,
    The trees in time will see some rime,
    and fade ‘neath sun’s harsh gaze
    And bird and beast in overt rest,
    Will pass the balmy days….”

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  2. Except that Burns was VERY good at enjoying the kinds of things that would give the above-mentioned preacher a conniption:

    There’s nought but care on ev’ry han’
    In ev’ry hour that passes, O:
    What signifies the life o’ man,
    An’ ’twere not for the lasses, O?

    Chorus (repeated after each verse):
    Green grow the rashes, O;
    Green grow the rashes, O;
    The sweetest hours that e’er I spend,
    Are spent amang the lasses O.

    The warly race may riches chase,
    An’ riches still may fly them, O,
    An’ tho’ at last they catch them fast,
    Their hearts can ne’er enjoy them, O.

    But gie me a cannie hour at e’en,
    My arms about my Dearie, O,
    An’ warly cares an’ warly men
    May a’ gae tapsalteerie, O!

    For you sae douce! ye sneer at this,
    Ye’re nought but senseless asses, O:
    The wisest Man the warl’ saw,
    He dearly lov’d the lasses, O.

    Auld Nature swears, the lovely Dears
    Her noblest work she classes, O:
    Her prentice han’ she try’d on man,
    An’ then she made the lasses, O.

    (Green Grow the Rashes)

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  3. “Snow is mystical, miraculous.”

    it is said that every snowflake has a different pattern of frozen ice crystals, that no two snowflakes are the same . . . . . for me, that speaks to the profound mystery of Creation

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  4. “the giftie gie us”

    Let’s face it Christiane – proper English just can’t convey it.

    And thanks for the history of Robbie – I didn’t know.

    1759 – 1796 He died at 37 years of age, the same day his son Maxwell was born.

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  5. I’m not entitled to my opinion? Nothing I said prevents you from enjoying the poem; it’s a matter of taste, and I expressed mine. Instead of complaining about my taste, why don’t you make a positive assessment of the poem yourself?

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  6. Reminds me of Yeats’s famous quote about the Irish:

    “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
    – William Butler Yeats

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  7. Agreed. I remember a poll that was done years ago that looked at how people viewed the seasons. Their rankings largely were based upon what part of the country they lived in (not to mention personalities), so in the South for example, fall got the #1 ranking (summer weather gets a bit toasty).

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  8. There are of course more than just Gaels here in Scotland 😉

    Historically and currently, Gaels are primarily in the Western Highlands and Isles. Fairly unusually in terms of Scotland’s reformation many Gales also remained Catholic.

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  9. “Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
    Assist me to resign.”
    To the preacher of the modern Prosperity Gospel this sort of statement is heretical and born out of the pits of hell. Burns is no less than Satan’s spawn trying to deceive and bring down the children of Gawd!!

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  10. I thank G-d for snow and winter (something the earth must have). We live in the mtns, so we get a lot of snow. And yes, I go out in it — proper tires, boots, jackets, hats, gloves…etc. Remember the quote about, “If you don’t find joy in snow, it will still snow but you will have less joy.” Snow is mystical, miraculous. This is the winter and snow which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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  11. Although Burns rejected his childhood Calvinism, there’s too much Calvinistic masochism in this poem for my liking, too much embrace of fatalism. “O, do Thou grant / This one request of mine!” – I suppose a request for daily bread instead would be too hedonistic? I know Martin Luther came pretty close to double predestination, but at least his fatalism included plenty of beer-drinking, and thanking God for it; I don’t drink, but I prefer old Martin’s joie de vivre to Burns leftover theological haggis.

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  12. you rock, senecagriggs . . . . you sound like a Scot or a Norseman when you speak the common Scots’ language of the poet Burns

    “Burns was quite capable of writing in “proper” King’s English and could have written his works in that, but chose to write in the language of the common Scot.
    This mix of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Scots Gaelic and Norman French may be difficult for modern Americans to fully understand, but with a little effort these words can speak to our hearts as they did to the Scots who were Burns’ original audience.”
    http://www.rlcherry.com/2013/01/robert-burns-immortal-memory/

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  13. I went to a Presbyterian School, arh that might be my problem!
    I try not to be miserable but it follows me. Blame my upbringing.

    I gave it up for High Church Anglicanism, you see why I am confused?

    I seem to remember from this time last year that we will soon be singing ‘Joy to the World’.
    I need to get out of the Minor key of Advent Hymns and pursue a Major lift which we talked about here last week.
    I might need to get the ladder out of the shed for this.
    I jest, forgive me.

    Still watching the post.

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  14. I think this is an auld poem and should never be forgotten. I find the poems of Robert Burns difficult to follow sometimes and rate them as 1st, 2nd and of course 3rd degree Burns. Many tourist in Florida try to avoid his offspring , son Burns

    Of course my favorite Burns Monty in spite of his treatment of Smithers. Johnny Walker and Scrooge McDuck are also two of my favorites Scots..

    My mind twists and turns
    as I read a poem by Burns
    sometimes my stomach churns

    Once again raising the intellectual bar.

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  15. I am convinced that the reason Presbyterianism took off in Scotland is that Gaels actually like being miserable.

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