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Home > English > Poetry > Robert Burns


Robert Burns

To A Mouse

Richard Wilson reads the poem:

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The text in full (with explanatory notes)


To a Mouse, on Turning Up in Her Nest with the Plough


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 [bickering brattle: scurrying clatter, hurry!

I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,

Wi' murd'ring pattle [pattle: short spade used to clean a plough!


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 [maun: must live!

A daimen icker in a thrave [daimen-icker in a thrave: occasional ear of corn in a measure

'S a sma' request:

I'll get a blessin wi' the lave [the lave: the rest,

An' never miss't!


Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!

It's silly wa's [silly wa's: pitiful walls the win's are strewin!

An' naething, now, to big [big: build a new ane,

O' foggage [foggage: rank grass / moss green!

An' bleak December's winds ensuin,

Baith snell [snell: bitter an' keen!


Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,

An' weary Winter comin fast,

An' cozie here, beneath the blast,

Thou thought to dwell,

Till crash! the cruel coulter [coulter: blade of a plough past

Out thro' thy cell.


That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,

Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!

Now thou's [thou's: thou art turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,

But house or hald [but house or hald: without house or dwelling,

To thole [thole: endure the Winter's sleety dribble,

An' cranreuch [cranreuch: hoar-frost cauld!


But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane [no thy-lane: not alone,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o' mice an 'men

Gang aft agley [gang aft agley: often go awry,

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 [e'e: eye,

On prospects drear!

An' forward, tho' I canna see,

I guess an' fear!


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