To a Mouse by Robert Burns

Today, I was looking for a poem that I’d promised Jubilee I’d read to her (Wordsworth’s The Kitten and Falling Leaves, which I normally read from our Gyo Fujikawa book of poems) when I stumbled on this likewise autumnal poem.  I read this first in the original version, and I found myself mourning for this mouse that I’d never met, homeless right before winter set in.  Robert Burns had a way with words that could just rip your heart out.

And so, today, I rodent-disliker, post an entire blog post in memory of that little mouse from the 17th century that made me cry.

To a Mouse,

by Robert Burns, 1759 – 1796

On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785.

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O’ what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awasae 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 maks 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,
And 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 win’s ensuin,
Baith snell and 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 turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuchcauld.

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

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I cannasee,
I guess an’ fear!

 

Note: For a modern side-by-side translation of this poem, click here

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