Stanzas eleven to sixteen reveal the main purpose of Willie’s prayer, based on his belief that his God will destroy his enemies. He calls down God’s curse on people who have humiliated him. He is seeking their destruction.
In these stanzas Burns uses particularly effective techniques of satire. Willie’s invocation of God’s curse is presented in a hyperbole, an exaggerated way of calling down the full wrath of God:
Lord visit them and dinna spare/ For their misdeeds!
Another satirical tactic is focusing on Willie’s pettiness. The man whom Willie asks God to destroy, Gavin Hamilton, was criticised in court for having potatoes dug up and boiled on a Sunday because his son was hungry. This claim had been laughed out of court. Willie claims that Hamilton had
…set the world in a roar/O laughin’ at us and orders God
Curse thou his basket and his store/ Kail an’ potatoes!.
Here the snappy ending of the Habbie allows Burns to mock Willie comically. The clever and unexpected rhyme of
at us and
potatoes underlines the petty vindictiveness of Willie’s desire for revenge, along with the juxtaposition of
Curse thou, suggesting God’s supreme power with
kail and potatoes, the homely and insignificant objects of his curse.
As Willie reminds God, it is all about revenge for being laughed at and then beaten in court by the
glib-tongued lawyer Aitken. The humiliation of being publicly defeated leads to Willie’s crescendo of invective in Stanza sixteen, beginning
Lord in Thy day of vengeance try him. This stanza is a series of commands to God, each one full of hate and spite and each one going against the basic beliefs of Christianity. For example, Willie orders God,
Nor hear their prayer- he is unaware of the irony of a mortal, through prayer, telling God not to hear the prayers of others.