Stanzas 4 - 6

Stanza 4: Consequences

Stanza four begins with an exclamation which shows the speaker’s shocked realisation at what his ploughing has actually done - reduced the mouse’s wee bit housie to ruin. The word choice wee bit housie and feminine rhyme scheme of ruin and strewin, along with the assonance of housie (pronounced 'hoosie') and now('noo'), suggest continuity with the earlier stanzas.

However, the tone is now the opposite of reassuring. Burns uses assonance to underline the ominous onset of winter in the final two lines: December’s…ensuin…snell and bleak...keen. These harsher vowels with the word choice of snell in the middles emphasise the bleakness of the mouse’s future.

Stanza 5: Empathy

The sympathy of stanza four becomes brilliantly evoked, dramatic empathy as the speaker thinks himself into the mouse’s mind and recreates its experience - Thou saw and Thou thought. We also see the mouse’s plans for winter survival.

In the final two lines of the Standard Habbie we relive the disastrous moment. A coulter (plough blade) only seems to crash if you are very small with very sensitive hearing. That coulter is a life-giver if you are human, but the alliteration, assonance and consonance of crash...cruel...coulter show its catastrophic effect here.

Stanza 6: Winter cold

The stanza begins by describing the ruined nest. Word choice of wee bit heap,stibble and nibble, reinforced by the feminine rhyme, refers back to the childlike language of earlier. These techniques intensify the feeling of empathy, making us appreciate the mouse’s huge nest-building efforts.

Note how, in the short lines of the Standard Habbie (lines 4 and 6) Burns uses the stressed masculine rhyme of hald and cauld, emphasising what the mouse has to thole now. The hard-edged word choice of cranreuch cauld, emphasised by alliteration, contributes an extra layer of misery as the stanza ends.