Scottish Poetry Selection
- To A Mouse
- On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough, November 1785

It is the mark of the genius of Burns that he can turn a small incident in a field into a profound observation about human beings: "The best-laid schemes o mice an men ang aft agley".

To A Mouse

Wee sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an chase thee,
Wi murdering pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma request;
I'll get a blessin wi the lave,
An never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An naething, now, to big a new ane.
O foggage green!
An bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an waste,
An weary winter comin fast,
An cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell.
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro thy cell.

That wee bit heap o leaves an stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble.
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o mice an men
Gang aft agley,
An lea'e us nought but grief an pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An forward. tho I canna see,
I guess an fear!

Meaning of unusual words:
bickering brattle=rushing clatter
daimen icker in a thrave=odd ear in 24 sheaves
foggage=coarse grass
But house or hald=without house or holding
Gang aft agley=often go awry

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