To A Mouse by Robert Burns

In “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect Robert Burns included the poem, “To a Mouse” in 1786.  The poem’s title alludes to the speaker’s experience with a mouse, and his expression of remorse to, and admiration of it. The poem shows that generally preparing is not always the best alternative. Now and then, it is smarter to embrace the here and now, just like the mouse does.

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!

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Analysis of Burns’s “To a Mouse”

Burns included “To a Mouse” in his first collection of poems. “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” in 1786. The poem is about the speaker’s experience with a mouse, and his profound admiration of and statement of regret to it. Most probably, the speaker in the poem is Burns himself, as is exhibited by the use of slangs and Scottish lingo. The speaker is by all accounts repentant, as he spends the majority of the poem apologizing to the mouse and thinking about its inconveniences.

Broadly, the poem is about enjoying the present moments, and not worrying about future ones. The speaker thinks that the mouse has an advantage over him because as opposed to preparing for the future, the mouse lives for the present. The speaker thinks that even our best plans can go terribly wrong. He expresses that the mouse is fortunate since the narrator himself lives in frustration and dread as he thinks about his fizzled plans and stresses over the future ones.

The mouse, on the other hand, takes grain without worrying about what will occur straightaway. The speaker begrudges the mouse since he has numerous second thoughts about the past and fears about what’s to come. The motivation behind the poem is to illustrate that it isn’t generally better to prepare for everything, because both man and nature’s plans do not always turn out the way we want them to.

The Industrial Revolution took over the agrarian life and affected peasants everywhere, where there was not much chance of rising up the social ladder and they felt the pinch of inequality. Since Burns’s family worked on a farm and suffered from oppression and poverty, he could understand well the mouse’s predicament.

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