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But Mousie...

A poem by Robert Burns (for Burns Day, January 25)

Robert Burns
Robert Burns

To a Mouse

  • 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, 
  • 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. 
  • 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! 

Robert Burns (1759–1796) was the premier Scottish poet and balladeer, regarded in Scotland with the same reverence as Shakespeare in England. He is celebrated throughout the world on his birthday, January 25th, known as Burns Day, with haggis, tripe, and various and sundry malted barley distillations.

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Robert Burns
Robert Burns

To a Mouse

  • 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, 
  • 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. 
  • 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! 

Robert Burns (1759–1796) was the premier Scottish poet and balladeer, regarded in Scotland with the same reverence as Shakespeare in England. He is celebrated throughout the world on his birthday, January 25th, known as Burns Day, with haggis, tripe, and various and sundry malted barley distillations.

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