Stanzas 7-8 Seeing ourselves as others see us

Stanza 7

quote
O Jenny, dinna toss your head,/An’ set your beauties a’ abread!

The persona’s subject shifts from the louse to the woman. Before he has described her based on her appearance - the fashionable image she shows to society. Now he addresses her directly as just ‘Jenny’, a simple country girl. Burns strips all heirs and graces from her. The speaker levels a directive towards his new subject.

quote
Thae winks and finger-ends, I dread,/Are notice takin!

The speaker points out the woman's ignorance (ye little ken) and misdirected pride as the louse begins to draw attention to itself.

Stanza 8

quote
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/To see oursels as others see us

Burns draws his anthropomorphic tale of the determined louse to a close with a now-famous axiom.

This realisation is the crux of Burns' message in this poem. What true gift it would be for us as individuals if we only knew what other people thought about us. If we were only able to understand the image that we project of ourselves, we might also be able to better understand the plight of others, argues Burns.

Four lines in the final stanza culminate with the word us. Burn’s positions this word at the end of the lines to force the reader to recognise that the poet’s message is directed squarely at the reader: the representative of humankind more generally.

Use of the word us widens the persona's assessment of Jenny's social pretension to include the poem's audience. Are we guilty of that self-same ignorance that Jenny has displayed towards the louse? Burns suggests that this power of self-awareness or self-scrutiny might lead us to change our behaviour and attitudes to those less fortunate than ourselves.