Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
To a Mouse, on Turning Her up in Her Nest, with the Plough
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
November, 1785

WEE, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic ’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
                Wi’ bickerin brattle! 1
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,        5
                Wi’ murd’ring pattle! 2
I ’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
                Which makes thee startle        10
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
                An’ fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker 3 in a thrave        15
                ’S a sma’ request:
I ’ll get a blessing wi’ the lave, 4
                And never miss ’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!        20
An’ naething, now, to big 5 a new one,
                O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
                Baith snell 6 an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,        25
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.        30
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 7 house or hald, 8
To thole 9 the winter’s sleety dribble,        35
                An’ cranreuch 10 cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, 11
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,
                Gang aft agley, 12        40
An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain,
                For promised joy.
Still thou art blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, och! I backward cast my e’e        45
                On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
                I guess an’ fear!
Note 1. hurry. [back]
Note 2. hand-stick for clearing the plough. [back]
Note 3. An ear of corn now and then; a thrave is twenty-four sheaves. [back]
Note 4. rest. [back]
Note 5. build. [back]
Note 6. bitter. [back]
Note 7. without. [back]
Note 8. holding. [back]
Note 9. endure. [back]
Note 10. hoar-frost. [back]
Note 11. alone. [back]
Note 12. awry. [back]

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