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To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough
by
Robert Burns


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Original

Modern English translation

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a pannic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty, 
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, 
Wi' murd'ring 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, whiles, 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! 
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin! 
An' naething, now, to big a new ane, 
O' foggage green! 
An' bleak December's winds 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. 

Thy wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, 
Has cost thee mony 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!

Little, sly, cowering, timid beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your heart!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!

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

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

 

This poem is in the public domain.

 

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Robert Burns (1759 - 1796) was born into a farming family in Scotland. Though he followed in his father's footsteps, working as a tenant farmer, Robert was a practicing poet and songwriter throughout his life, ultimately becoming known as Scotland's national poet. Nature was a favorite and constant theme of his poetry; other favorite subjects were class inequality and Scottish culture.  

 


Post New Comment:
Dorothy WildhagenD:
Absolutely delightful. a creature's favoritism over mankind's distress.
Posted 11/17/2018 03:50 PM
Richard Greene:
This is the poem that got me interested in poetry when I was 8 years old.
Posted 11/14/2018 07:33 AM
kentner43:
Refreshing to think on the humble mouse in this day of political strife. Oh to live that simply. This touched a soft spot. My dad cared about the farm creatures, even the mice, although we did have both a house cat and barn cat to control them.
Posted 11/12/2018 03:57 PM
michael escoubas:
Appreciate so much, Jayne, the side-by-side presentation of Burns. I appreciate also the inherent sensitivity of the poet to something so commonplace as nest of mice. We have grown to hate them, this poem sends a message that there is at least a speck of beauty in what we so easily discard!
Posted 11/12/2018 10:18 AM
wordartdjc:
I DO LOVE THE ORIGINAL FOR ITS RHYMING QUALITY AND IT IS FUN TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND, ALMOST LIKE A PUZZLE. HE WAS CERTAINLY A GREAT POET.
Posted 11/12/2018 09:30 AM
cork:
Gang aft agley....
Posted 11/12/2018 08:28 AM
Larry Schug:
Way too much fun for this early in the morning!
Posted 11/12/2018 07:53 AM


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