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Robert Burns, agreed with the author of ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’, Adam Smith, that Remorse is the most painful sentiment that can embitter the human bosom. He wrote the following as a young man in 1784. During the remainder of his life he would have had many occasions on which to reflect on these thoughts within his own circumstances.
“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
By our own folly, or our guilt brought on:
In ev'ry 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, when 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!”