“I entirely agree,” says Burns, “with the author of the Theory of
Moral Sentiments , that Remorse is the most painful sentiment that can
embitter the human bosom; an ordinary pitch of fortitude may bear up
admirably well, under those calamities, in the procurement of which we
ourselves have had no hand; but when our follies or crimes have made
us wretched, to bear all with manly firmness, and at the same time
have a proper penitential sense of our misconduct, is a glorious
effort of self-command.”
Robert Burns – Remorse. A Fragment Poem
Of all the numerous ills that hurt our peace,
That press the soul, or wring the mind with anguish,
Beyond comparison the worst are those
That to our folly or our guilt we owe.
In every other circumstance, the mind
Has this to say, ‘It was no deed of mine;’
But when to all the evil of misfortune
This sting is added–‘Blame thy foolish self!’
Or worser far, the pangs of keen remorse;
The torturing, gnawing consciousness of guilt,–
Of guilt, perhaps, where we’ve involved others;
The young, the innocent, who fondly lov’d us,
Nay, more, that very love their cause of ruin!
O burning hell! in all thy store of torments,
There’s not a keener lash!
Lives there a man so firm, who, while his heart
Feels all the bitter horrors of his crime,
Can reason down its agonizing throbs;
And, after proper purpose of amendment,
Can firmly force his jarring thoughts to peace?
O, happy! happy! enviable man!
O glorious magnanimity of soul!