Here's a virtual movie of the great Robert Burns reading his much loved and very philosophical poem "To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough".
To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough"is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1785, and was included in the Kilmarnock volume. As the legend goes, Burns wrote the poem after, as the poem suggests, turning up the winter nest of a mouse on his farm. Another theory of the meaning of this poem is that the farmer turning over the nest of the mouse symbolizes the English (the farmer) oppressing the Scottish (the mouse. The poem denotes the narrator of the poem is ploughing his field when he cuts through a mouse nest. The poet shows regret and apologises to the mouse before he goes on a tangent which reveals the deeper meaning of the poem. The connotation is that even when you mean no harm and have pure intentions, you can destroy somebody else's well laid plans. Life is unpredictable, and while preparing for the unpredictable future we are not enjoying the present moment - which the mouse seems to be able to do. The narrator reminisces on "prospects drear," i.e. bad events that have happened in the past which in some ways prevent him from moving on. Furthermore, some say that he is very fearful of the future and that these two reasons do not allow him to enjoy the present. He is also hinting that we "humans" aren't very empathic or sympathetic towards animals like this mouse, but both species prepare for the future, hoping for nothing to affect their smooth lives. He asks, so what if the mouse steals our corn? It still wants to survive; this is the same for humans, so why are we so apart? John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men from a line contained in the second-to-last stanza: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" (often paraphrased in English as "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry"). The first stanza of the poem is read by Ian Anderson in the beginning of the 2007 remaster of "One Brown Mouse" by Jethro Tull. Anderson adds the line "But a mouse is a mouse, for all that," at the end of the stanza, which is a reference to another of Burn's songs, "Is There for Honest Poverty", commonly known as "A Man's a Man for A' That".
All rights reserved on this video recording copyright Jim Clark 2014
To a Mouse.....
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty Wi bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murdering pattle. I'm truly sorry man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union, An' justifies that ill opinion Which makes thee startle 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 in a thrave 'S a sma' request; I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, An' never miss't. Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin! It's silly wa's the win's are strewin! An' naething, now, to big a new ane, O' foggage green! An' bleak December's win's ensuin, Baith snell an' keen! Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste, 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. That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, Has cost thee monie a weary nibble! Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble, But house or hald, To thole the winter's sleety dribble, An' cranreuch cauld. But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy! Still thou are blest, compared wi' me! The present only toucheth thee: But och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear