Robert Burns was a colourful and in some ways contraversial character of Scottish literature. For many he was an agnostic who had not much good to say about Christians, Christianity or church.
The truth is that he was brought up in the Christian faith, and the knowledge of the Bible. He had a very good understanding of Scripture and was readily able to quote it, or indeed misquote it. In his time the church in Scotland went through one of its turbulent disruptions. The behaviour of some on either side did not do much good for the church and the Christian faith in general. So Burns had an adamant hostility towards hypocrisy in people and the church, especially when they considered themselves holier than thou.
Whatever the case might be about Burns’ faith or the lack of it, he was an extremely gifted word-smith with a sharp observation of life and people, a quick wit and great sense of humour, and a perception for justice. So let stand here one of his poems in memory of Scotland’s national bard.
The First Six Verses Of The Ninetieth Psalm Versified (1781)
O Thou, the first, the greatest friend
Of all the human race!
Whose strong right hand has ever been
Their stay and dwelling place!
Before the mountains heav’d their heads
Beneath Thy forming hand,
Before this ponderous globe itself
Arose at Thy command;
That Pow’r which rais’d and still upholds
This universal frame,
From countless, unbeginning time
Was ever still the same.
Those mighty periods of years
Which seem to us so vast,
Appear no more before Thy sight
Than yesterday that’s past.
Thou giv’st the word: Thy creature, man,
Is to existence brought;
Again Thou say’st, “Ye sons of men,
Return ye into nought!”
Thou layest them, with all their cares,
In everlasting sleep;
As with a flood Thou tak’st them off
With overwhelming sweep.
They flourish like the morning flow’r,
In beauty’s pride array’d;
But long ere night cut down it lies
All wither’d and decay’d.