Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To a Mouse

Tonight is Burns Night, a national evening (week, really) of celebration here in Scotland (and around the globe) in honour of Robert Burns. Below is one of his best known poems and for good reason. It was penned by Burns after his plough had turned over the nest of a small field mouse. Enjoy! (Or repent, as appropriate.)
Translation help for those struggling with Burns' Scots can be gained here.
Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what 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' 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, 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!
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' wast,
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 are 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!

- Robert Burns, To a Mouse, 1785.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this; a dram to the bard!

byron smith said...

Jason (predictably but helpfully) offers some P. T. Forsyth on Burns.

And we did indeed have a dram or two to the bard last night after Bible study. Given that we were reading Ecclesiastes 1.12-2.16 for our study, it was fitting that our first Burns reading after the study was Green Grow the Rashes.

byron smith said...

John Stott preached an interesting sermon on the relation of humans and animals, which is summarised here.

byron smith said...

Conversation: Why animal testing has a flawed model.

byron smith said...

Fascinating piece documenting the history of the participating of animals in legal trials and then exploring the philosophical implications.