Eleventh entry: Erasure

I decided to borrow NaPoWriMo’s prompt for Day 26 for today’s poem: take a copy of a long poem, and systematically erase whole words or even lines while maintaining the relative position of the remaining words. This method is called erasure. I chose not only one of my favorite poets, Robert Burns, who had a penchant for writing very long poems (you might be familiar with Tam O’ Shanter, some 224 lines of brilliant literature), but one of my favorite themes, as well, in his poem “A Winter Night.” The crossed-out, italic text is what has been erased; the bold text is “my” new poem:


When biting Boreas, fell and dour,
Sharp shivers thro’ the leafless bow’r;
When Phoebus gies a short-liv’d glow’r,

Far south the lift,
Dim-dark’ning thro’ the flaky show’r,
whirling drift:

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi’ snawy wreaths up-choked,
Wild-eddying swirl;
Or, thro’ the mining outlet bocked,

Down headlong hurl:

List’ning the doors an’ winnocks rattle,
I thought me on the ourie cattle,
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
winter war,
And thro’ the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle
Beneath a scar.

Ilk happing bird,-wee, helpless thing!
That, in the merry months o’ spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o’ thee?
Whare wilt thou cow’r thy chittering wing,
An’ close thy e’e?

Ev’n you, on murdering errands toil’d,
Lone from your savage homes exil’d,
The blood-stain’d roost, and sheep-cote spoil’d
My heart forgets,
While pityless the tempest wild
Sore on you beats!

Now Phoebe in her midnight reign,
Dark-muff’d, view’d the dreary plain;
Still crowding thoughts, a pensive train,

Rose in my soul,
When on my ear this plantive strain,
Slow, solemn, stole:-

Blow, blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!
And freeze, thou bitter-biting frost!
Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows!
all your rage, as now united, shows
More hard unkindness
Vengeful malice unrepenting.
Than heaven-illumin’d Man
on brother Man bestows!

“See stern Oppression’s iron grip,
Or mad Ambition’s gory hand,
like blood-hounds from the slip,
Woe, Want, and Murder
o’er a land!
Ev’n in the
peaceful rural vale,
weeping, tells the mournful tale,
How pamper’d Luxury, Flatt’ry by her side,
The parasite empoisoning her ear,
With all the servile wretches in the rear,
Looks o’er proud Property, extended wide;
And eyes the simple, rustic hind,
Whose toil upholds the glitt’ring
creature of another kind,
Some coarser substance, unrefin’d-
Plac’d for her lordly use thus far, thus
vile, below!

“Where, where is Love’s fond, tender throe,
With lordly Honour’s lofty brow,
The pow’rs you proudly own?
Is there, beneath Love’s noble name,
Can harbour, dark, the
selfish aim,
To bless himself alone?
Mark maiden-
innocence a prey
To love-pretending snares:
This boasted Honour
turns away,
Shunning soft Pity’s rising sway,
Regardless of
the tears and unavailing pray’rs!
Perhaps this hour,
in Misery’s squalid nest,
She strains your infant to her
joyless breast,
And with a mother’s fears shrinks at the rocking blast!

“Oh ye! who, sunk in beds of down,
Feel not a want but what yourselves create,
Think, for a moment, on his wretched
Whom friends and fortune quite disown!
Ill-satisfy’d keen
nature’s clamorous call,
Stretch’d on his straw, he lays himself to sleep;
While through the ragged roof and chinky wall,
Chill, o’er his slumbers, piles the drifty heap!
Think on the dungeon’s grim confine,

Where Guilt and poor Misfortune pine!
Guilt, erring man, relenting view,
But shall thy legal
rage pursue
The wretch, already
crushed low
By cruel Fortune’s undeserved blow?

Affliction’s sons are brothers in distress;
A brother to relieve, how exquisite the bliss!”

I heard nae mair, for Chanticleer
Shook off the pouthery snaw,
And hail’d the morning with a cheer,
A cottage-
rousing craw.
But deep this truth impress’d my mind-
Thro’ all His works abroad,
The heart benevolent and kind
The most resembles God.


Fore ease of reading, here’s my revised version off the erasure that breaks the original format and makes some minor changes:

Sharp shivers thro’ the
whirling drift the steeples rocked,
while burns choked
down doors an’ winnocks.
I thought me on the
winter war
beneath a scar.

Wee, helpless spring,
what comes o’ thee
on murdering errands
from your blood-stained roost
while,  pityless, the wild
in her midnight reign
rose in my soul?

Blow, blow all your rage unrelenting
on Man
like blood-hounds o’er
peaceful weeping!
Look o’er the simple creature
with the pow’rs you proudly own.

Selfish innocence
turns away,
shunning the tears
in Misery’s joyless breast.

Sunk in beds of fate and fortune,
nature’s clamorous call
lays him to sleep through the Chill
where rage crushed affliction’s brothers.

I shook off the morning with a
rousing craw.


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