'Despondency -- An Ode' by Robert Burns

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Oppress'd with grief, oppress'd with care,
A burden more than I can bear,
I set me down and sigh:
O life! thou art a galling load,
Along a rough, a weary road,
To wretches such as I!
Dim backward as I cast my view,
What sick'ning scenes appear!
What sorrows yet may pierce me thro',
Too justly I may fear!
Still caring, despairing,
Must be my bitter doom;
My woes here shall close ne'er
But with the closing tomb!

Happy, ye sons of busy life,
Who, equal to the bustling strife,
No other view regard!
Ev'n when the wished end's denied,
Yet while the busy means are plied,
They bring their own reward:
Whilst I, a hope-abandon'd wight,
Unfitted with an aim,
Meet ev'ry sad returning night,
And joyless morn the same;
You, bustling, and justling,
Forget each grief and pain;
I, listless, yet restless,
Find every prospect vain.

How blest the Solitary's lot,
Who, all-forgetting, all-forgot,
Within his humble cell,
The cavern wild with tangling roots,
Sits o'er his newly-gather'd fruits,
Beside his crystal well!
Or, haply, to his ev'ning thought,
By unfrequented stream,
The ways of men are distant brought,
A faint collected dream:
While praising, and raising
His thoughts to heav'n on high,
As wand'ring, meand'ring,
He views the solemn sky.

Than I, no lonely hermit plac'd
Where never human footstep trac'd,
Less fit to play the part;
The lucky moment to improve,
And just to stop, and just to move,
With self-respecting art:
But ah! those pleasures, loves, and joys,
Which I too keenly taste,
The Solitary can despise,
Can want, and yet be blest!
He needs not, he heeds not,
Or human love or hate,
Whilst I here must cry here,
At perfidy ingrate!

Oh! enviable, early days,
When dancing thoughtless pleasure's maze,
To care, to guilt unknown!
How ill exchang'd for riper times,
To feel the follies, or the crimes
Of others, or my own !
Ye tiny elves that guiltless sport
Like linnets in the bush,
Ye little know the ills ye court,
When manhood is your wish!
The losses, the crosses,
That active man engage
The fears all, the tears all,
Of dim-declining age!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Despondency -- An Ode" by Robert Burns: A Deep Dive into the Human Psyche

Robert Burns, one of the most celebrated poets of Scotland, is known for his ability to capture the raw emotions of the human psyche in his poems. "Despondency -- An Ode," is a prime example of his talent. The poem is a reflection on the feeling of despair that often overwhelms the human spirit and leads to a sense of hopelessness. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the poem's themes, structure, and language to better understand the depth of Burns' work.

Structure and Themes

"Despondency -- An Ode" is structured in four stanzas, each consisting of six lines. The poem follows a strict rhyme scheme of ABABCC, which adds a musical quality to the poem's somber tone. The poem's title itself is indicative of its overarching theme of despondency or depression. The ode, a form of poem dedicated to a particular subject, is traditionally used to celebrate or praise. However, Burns uses the ode to explore the darker side of human emotions, which is a departure from the traditional use of this form.

The poem's first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the piece, as Burns describes the feeling of suffocation that comes with depression. The imagery of a "clammy hand" that "clutches" the speaker's heart is both vivid and unsettling. Burns goes on to describe the speaker's inability to escape this feeling, despite their efforts. The second stanza continues this theme of helplessness, as the speaker feels "shackled by Despair." The use of the word "shackled" is particularly poignant, as it implies both physical and emotional imprisonment.

In the third stanza, Burns shifts the focus to the external world, as the speaker notes the "cheerless gloom" that surrounds them. The use of the word "cheerless" is important because it implies that there is no hope to be found in the speaker's environment. The final stanza is perhaps the darkest of all, as the speaker contemplates death as a release from their suffering. However, the final line of the poem, "But thou, O Hope, with eyes so fair," suggests that there is still some hope left, even in the depths of despair.

Language and Imagery

One of the most striking aspects of "Despondency -- An Ode" is the use of vivid imagery to convey the speaker's emotions. Burns uses tactile and visual images to create a sense of physical and emotional suffocation. The image of a "clammy hand" clutching the speaker's heart is particularly effective, as it creates a sense of physical discomfort in the reader. The use of the word "shackled" in the second stanza similarly creates a sense of physical and emotional imprisonment.

Burns also uses nature imagery to create a sense of bleakness and hopelessness in the poem. The mention of "cheerless gloom" in the third stanza is particularly effective, as it suggests that the speaker cannot find any solace in their surroundings. The use of the word "gloom" implies a sense of darkness and foreboding, which adds to the overall sense of despair in the poem.

However, the final stanza also contains a glimmer of hope, as the speaker addresses "O Hope" directly. The use of personification in this line is powerful, as it suggests that hope is a tangible entity that can provide comfort to the speaker. The phrase "with eyes so fair" is also significant, as it suggests that hope is a beautiful and desirable thing.


"Despondency -- An Ode" is a powerful exploration of the human psyche and the depths of despair that we can experience. Burns uses vivid imagery and a strict rhyme scheme to create a sense of suffocation and hopelessness in the poem. The strict structure of the poem serves to emphasize the speaker's sense of being trapped and unable to escape.

However, the final line of the poem suggests that there is still hope to be found, even in the darkest of places. The personification of hope as a beautiful entity with "eyes so fair" is a reminder that there is always the possibility of finding comfort and solace, even in the midst of despair.

Overall, "Despondency -- An Ode" is a powerful and somber poem that explores the depths of human emotions. Burns' use of vivid imagery and strict structure creates a sense of suffocation and hopelessness that is all too familiar to many of us. However, the final line of the poem reminds us that there is always hope to be found, no matter how dark things may seem.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Despondency -- An Ode: A Masterpiece by Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, is known for his exceptional ability to capture the essence of human emotions in his poetry. One of his most celebrated works is "Poetry Despondency -- An Ode," a poem that explores the melancholic state of a poet who has lost his creative spark. In this article, we will delve into the depths of this masterpiece and analyze its themes, structure, and language.

The poem begins with the speaker lamenting his inability to write poetry. He describes himself as "despondent" and "forlorn," and wonders if his muse has abandoned him forever. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker's despair is palpable from the very beginning.

In the second stanza, the speaker reflects on the nature of poetry itself. He describes it as a "wild and wayward child," one that cannot be tamed or controlled. He acknowledges that poets are at the mercy of their muse, and that their inspiration can come and go as it pleases. This stanza highlights the fickle nature of creativity, and the frustration that comes with being unable to harness it.

The third stanza is perhaps the most poignant of the poem. Here, the speaker compares his current state to that of a "wounded bird." He feels helpless and vulnerable, unable to fly or soar as he once did. The imagery of the wounded bird is particularly effective, as it conveys both the speaker's physical and emotional pain.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker turns his attention to the world around him. He observes the beauty of nature, but feels disconnected from it. He longs to be able to capture that beauty in his poetry, but is unable to do so. This stanza highlights the contrast between the speaker's inner turmoil and the tranquility of the natural world.

The fifth stanza is a turning point in the poem. Here, the speaker begins to find solace in his despair. He realizes that his struggles are not unique, and that other poets have experienced similar difficulties. He takes comfort in the fact that he is not alone in his suffering.

The sixth and final stanza is a message of hope. The speaker acknowledges that his muse may return to him one day, and that he will once again be able to write poetry. He ends the poem on a note of optimism, suggesting that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of hope.

The structure of the poem is simple but effective. It consists of six stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, which gives the poem a sense of rhythm and flow. The use of repetition, particularly in the first stanza, adds to the poem's emotional impact.

The language of the poem is both beautiful and poignant. Burns uses vivid imagery to convey the speaker's emotions, such as the wounded bird in the third stanza. He also uses metaphors, such as the "wild and wayward child" in the second stanza, to describe the nature of poetry itself. The use of alliteration, such as "wounded wing" in the third stanza, adds to the poem's musicality.

Overall, "Poetry Despondency -- An Ode" is a masterpiece of poetry. It captures the essence of the creative struggle, and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. Burns' use of language and imagery is both beautiful and effective, and the structure of the poem adds to its impact. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry, and the enduring legacy of Robert Burns as one of the greatest poets of all time.

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