Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday's Poetry: "To a Mouse"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns was a mere scamp of a young man (age 26)  when he accidentally destroyed the home of a young field mouse while plowing.  The incident troubled Burns to the extent that he took the time to craft and record (pen to paper) remarks to the mouse in which he paid homage to the delicate connections found in nature.   Burns recognized the needs of the mouse, who had only to live and function in the present, and compared them with his own existence which took in a problematic past and an unknowable future.  There is quite a bit of sadness and despair in the poem.

I first became aware of this piece while taking an English literature course in college - and I thank Professor Ann Slanina for leading me to it.  To a Mouse has always been one of my favorites, and I enjoy revisiting it every few years.  The original Scottish version follows.

To a Mouse
by Robert Burns

On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
          Wi’ bickerin 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’ 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!

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