Wee, sleekit, cowrin, 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’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
What makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
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.
That 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 dreaer!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
"To a Mouse" by Robert Burns is a heartfelt and empathetic poem that reflects on the fragility of life, the unpredictability of circumstances, and the connection between humans and the natural world. Through its address to a mouse whose nest has been disrupted, the poem explores themes of empathy, humility, and the shared vulnerability of all living beings.
The poem begins with the speaker apologizing to the mouse for inadvertently destroying its home while plowing a field. This gesture of empathy sets the tone for the poem's contemplation of the mouse's situation and the broader human condition.
The famous line "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" (often paraphrased as "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry") captures the essence of the poem's theme: the unpredictability and uncertainty of life. This sentiment reflects the speaker's realization that both humans and animals are subject to circumstances beyond their control.
Burns uses vivid imagery and descriptive language to convey the mouse's plight. The image of the "wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie" captures the vulnerability and fear of the mouse, creating a sense of sympathy from the speaker.
The poem's tone is one of reflection and introspection. The speaker expresses admiration for the mouse's ability to live in the present moment, contrasting it with human worries about the past and future.
"To a Mouse" underscores the interconnection between all living beings and the shared experiences of struggle and vulnerability. The poem's contemplation of the mouse's fate prompts the speaker to ponder the larger human experience, emphasizing the importance of empathy and humility in recognizing the challenges faced by both humans and animals.
Ultimately, "To a Mouse" is a poignant reflection on the unpredictable nature of life and the shared experiences that connect all living creatures. The poem encourages readers to consider the impact of their actions on the natural world and to approach both success and adversity with understanding and compassion.