To a Mouse

On Turning Up Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785

Original Text: 
Robert Burns, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (Kilmarnock, 1786). PR 4300 1786a K5a SMR. (Edinburgh, 1797). B-10 0051 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2Oh, what a panic's in thy breastie!
3Thou need na start awa sae hasty
7I'm truly sorry man's dominion
8Has broken Nature's social union,
9An' justifies that ill opinion
10      Which makes thee startle
11At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
12      An' fellow-mortal!
16      'S a sma' request;
18      An' never miss 't!
19Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
23An' bleak December's winds ensuin
25Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
26An' weary winter comin fast,
27An' cozie here beneath the blast
28      Thou thought to dwell,
29Till crash! the cruel coulter past
30      Out thro' thy cell.
31That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble
32Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
33Now thou's turn'd out for a' thy trouble,
38In proving foresight may be vain:
39The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
41An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
42      For promis'd joy.
43Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
44The present only toucheth thee:
45But, och! I backward cast my e'e
46      On prospects drear!
47An' forward, tho' I canna see,
48      I guess an' fear!


1] Burns's brother Gilbert is responsible for the story that the poem was composed while the poet was ploughing, after he had turned up a mouse's nest and had saved the mouse from the spade of the boy who was holding the horses.
sleekit: sleek. Back to Line
4] bickerin brattle: hurrying scamper. Back to Line
5] laith: loth. Back to Line
6] pattle: a small long-handled spade for removing clay from the ploughshare. Back to Line
13] whyles: sometimes. Back to Line
14] mawn: must. Back to Line
15] daimen: occasional.
icker: ear of corn.
a thrave: twenty-four sheaves. Back to Line
17] lave: rest. Back to Line
20] silly: feeble. Back to Line
21] big: build. Back to Line
22] foggage: coarse grass. Back to Line
24] snell: piercing. Back to Line
34] But: without.
house or hald: house or habitation; cf. Address to the Deil, 104. Back to Line
35] thole: endure. Back to Line
36] cranreuch: hoar-frost. Back to Line
37] no thy lane: not alone. Back to Line
40] a-gley: amiss. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
G. G. Falle
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.311.