'To A Mouse' by Robert Burns
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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!
Editor 1 Interpretation
"To A Mouse" by Robert Burns: A Criticism and Interpretation
"To A Mouse" is one of the most famous poems written by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet who lived in the late 18th century. The poem is known for its simple yet powerful language and its universal themes of fate, mortality, and the relationship between humans and animals. In this essay, I will provide a detailed literary criticism and interpretation of "To A Mouse," exploring its historical context, poetic techniques, and philosophical implications.
"To A Mouse" was written in 1785, during a period of great social and economic upheaval in Scotland. Burns was born into a family of tenant farmers, who struggled to make ends meet in a system that favored landowners over tenants. The poem reflects Burns' own experiences of the harsh realities of rural life, where animals were often seen as competitors for scarce resources.
At the same time, Burns was part of a cultural movement that sought to celebrate Scottish language and culture, which had been suppressed by English domination. Burns' use of Scots dialect in "To A Mouse" was an act of defiance against the dominant English literary tradition, and a celebration of his own cultural heritage.
"To A Mouse" is written in a simple, unpretentious style, which reflects Burns' own philosophy of poetry as a form of natural expression. The poem is structured as a dialogue between the speaker and a mouse, who is described as "wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie."
The poem is divided into four stanzas, each consisting of six lines, with a regular ABABAB rhyme scheme. The meter is predominantly iambic tetrameter, with occasional variations to create a sense of musicality and rhythm.
One of the most striking features of "To A Mouse" is Burns' use of metaphor and symbolism. The mouse is not just a small animal, but a symbol of vulnerability and fragility, which is contrasted with the speaker's own sense of power and agency. The mouse is also a metaphor for the human condition, with its struggles and uncertainties.
On a surface level, "To A Mouse" is a poem about a man who accidentally destroys a mouse's nest while plowing his field. However, on a deeper level, the poem is an exploration of the human condition, and the relationship between humans and animals.
The speaker expresses regret for the harm he has caused the mouse, and acknowledges the similarities between himself and the tiny creature. In the third stanza, he laments the fact that both he and the mouse are subject to the whims of fate, which can disrupt their carefully laid plans:
"But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley,"
This famous line has become a proverbial expression of the unpredictability of life, and the futility of trying to control the future. The speaker recognizes that he and the mouse are both subject to the same forces of nature, and that their lives are equally fragile and precarious.
In the final stanza, the speaker reflects on the mouse's ability to live in the present moment, without worrying about the future. He envies the mouse's simple existence, free from the worries and anxieties that plague human beings:
"Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me! The present only toucheth thee: But och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear!"
This passage is a poignant reminder of the limitations of human knowledge and foresight, and the importance of living in the present moment. The mouse, with its simple needs and desires, represents a kind of innocence and purity that is lost to most human beings.
"To A Mouse" is a masterpiece of Scottish literature, which has endured for over two centuries as a testament to Robert Burns' poetic genius. The poem's themes of fate, mortality, and the relationship between humans and animals are timeless and universal, and continue to resonate with readers today.
Through its simple language and powerful imagery, "To A Mouse" invites us to reflect on the fragility of life, the importance of living in the present, and the need to show compassion and empathy towards all creatures, great and small. As a literary critic and interpreter, I can only marvel at the depth and beauty of this poem, and the enduring legacy of Robert Burns' contribution to the world of poetry.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To A Mouse: A Timeless Classic by Robert Burns
Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, is known for his lyrical and romantic poetry. However, one of his most famous works is a poem that is neither romantic nor lyrical. Instead, it is a simple and straightforward poem about a mouse. The poem is called "To a Mouse" and is considered a classic in the world of literature. In this article, we will take a closer look at this timeless classic and analyze its meaning and significance.
The poem "To a Mouse" was written by Robert Burns in 1785. It was written in Scots dialect, which is a form of English spoken in Scotland. The poem is only eight stanzas long, but it has become one of the most famous poems in the English language. The poem is addressed to a mouse that Burns had accidentally disturbed while plowing a field. The mouse had built a nest in the field, and Burns had destroyed it with his plow.
The poem begins with the famous lines:
"Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi' bickering brattle!"
The lines are written in Scots dialect and may be difficult for some readers to understand. However, the meaning is clear. Burns is addressing the mouse and acknowledging its fear. He is also apologizing for disturbing it and causing it to flee.
The next stanza of the poem is equally famous:
"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!"
In these lines, Burns is expressing his regret that humans have disrupted the natural world. He is acknowledging that humans have a tendency to dominate and control nature, and that this has caused harm to the environment and its inhabitants. He is also acknowledging that the mouse is his fellow creature and that they are both mortal beings.
The poem continues with Burns reflecting on the mouse's life and how it must struggle to survive in a harsh world. He writes:
"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!"
In these lines, Burns is acknowledging that the mouse is not alone in its struggles. He is also acknowledging that even the best-laid plans can go awry, and that life is full of unexpected twists and turns. He is expressing his sympathy for the mouse and all creatures that must struggle to survive in a harsh world.
The poem ends with Burns reflecting on the mouse's future and his own mortality. He writes:
"But, Och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!"
In these lines, Burns is acknowledging that he too is mortal and that he too must face an uncertain future. He is expressing his fear and uncertainty about what lies ahead, and his regret for the harm that humans have caused to the natural world.
The poem "To a Mouse" is a timeless classic because it speaks to universal themes that are still relevant today. It speaks to the human tendency to dominate and control nature, and the harm that this has caused to the environment and its inhabitants. It speaks to the struggles that all creatures face in a harsh and unpredictable world. And it speaks to the fear and uncertainty that we all feel about the future.
In conclusion, "To a Mouse" is a simple and straightforward poem that has become a classic in the world of literature. It speaks to universal themes that are still relevant today, and it reminds us of our connection to the natural world and our responsibility to protect it. It is a poem that is both timeless and timely, and it is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to inspire and move us.
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