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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Man Was Made to Mourn

By Robert Burns (1759–1796)

A Dirge

WHEN chill November’s surly blast

Made fields and forests bare,

One evening, as I wandered forth

Along the banks of Ayr,

I spied a man, whose aged step

Seemed weary, worn with care;

His face was furrowed o’er with years,

And hoary was his hair.

“Young stranger, whither wanderest thou?”

Began the reverend sage;

“Does thirst of wealth thy step constrain,

Or youthful pleasure’s rage?

Or haply, pressed with cares and woes,

Too soon thou hast began

To wander forth, with me, to mourn

The miseries of man!

“The sun that overhangs yon moors,

Outspreading far and wide,

Where hundreds labor to support

A haughty lordling’s pride;—

I’ve seen yon weary winter sun

Twice forty times return;

And every time has added proofs

That man was made to mourn.

“O man! while in thy early years,

How prodigal of time!

Misspending all thy precious hours,

Thy glorious youthful prime!

Alternate follies take the sway,

Licentious passions burn;

Which tenfold force gives Nature’s law,

That man was made to mourn.

“Look not alone on youthful prime,

Or manhood’s active might;

Man then is useful to his kind,

Supported is his right:

But see him on the edge of life,

With cares and sorrows worn,

Then age and want—oh ill-matched pair!—

Show man was made to mourn.

“A few seem favorites of fate,

In Pleasure’s lap caressed;

Yet think not all the rich and great

Are likewise truly blest.

But oh! what crowds in every land

Are wretched and forlorn!

Through weary life this lesson learn,

That man was made to mourn.

“Many and sharp the num’rous ills

Inwoven with our frame;

More pointed still we make ourselves

Regret, remorse, and shame!

And man, whose heaven-erected face

The smiles of love adorn,

Man’s inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!

“See yonder poor o’er-labored wight,

So abject, mean, and vile,

Who begs a brother of the earth

To give him leave to toil;

And see his lordly fellow-worm

The poor petition spurn,

Unmindful, though a weeping wife

And helpless offspring mourn.

“If I’m designed yon lordling’s slave,

By Nature’s law designed,

Why was an independent wish

E’er planted in my mind?

If not, why am I subject to

His cruelty or scorn?

Or why has man the will and power

To make his fellow mourn?

“Yet let not this too much, my son,

Disturb thy youthful breast;

This partial view of humankind

Is surely not the best!

The poor, oppressèd, honest man,

Had never, sure, been born,

Had there not been some recompense

To comfort those that mourn.

“O Death! the poor man’s dearest friend—

The kindest and the best!

Welcome the hour my agèd limbs

Are laid with thee at rest!

The great, the wealthy, fear thy blow

From pomp and pleasure torn;

But, oh! a blest relief to those

That weary-laden mourn!”