Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
To a Mouse
By Robert Burns (1759–1796)
Flying before a Plow

WEE, sleekit, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie,
Oh, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou needna start awa’ sae hasty,
      Wi’ bick’ring brattle! 1
I wad be laith to rin and chase thee,        5
      Wi’ murd’ring pattle! 2
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
      Which mak’s thee startle        10
At me, thy poor earth-born companion
      And fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave 3        15
      ’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin’ wi’ the lave,
      And never miss ’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly 4 wa’s the win’s are strewin’!        20
And naething now to big 5 a new ane
      O’ foggage 6 green!
And bleak December’s winds ensuin’,
      Baith snell 7 and keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste,        25
And weary winter comin’ fast,
And cozie here, beneath the blast
      Thou thought to dwell,
Till, crash! the cruel coulter past
      Out through thy cell.        30
That wee bit heap o’ leaves and stibble
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out for a’ thy trouble,
      But house or hauld, 8
To thole 9 the winter’s sleety dribble,        35
      And cranreuch 10 cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane 11
In proving foresight may be vain!
The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men
      Gang aft agley,        40
And lea’e us naught 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!
And forward, though I canna see,
      I guess and fear.
Note 1. Hurrying run. [back]
Note 2. The plow-spade. [back]
Note 3. An ear of corn in twenty-four sheaves—that is, in a thrave. [back]
Note 4. Frail. [back]
Note 5. Build. [back]
Note 6. Aftermath. [back]
Note 7. Bitter. [back]
Note 8. Holding. [back]
Note 9. Endure. [back]
Note 10. Crevice. [back]
Note 11. Alone. [back]

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