Robert Burns is widely regarded as the Scottish Bard, but his influence has been global, it doesn’t take much imagination to think that Auld Lang Syne might be sung all around the globe on New Year’s Eve. He is well renown for being a pioneer of the Romantic Age, with his emphasis on social commentary, and has inspired many socialist and liberalist writers since. Geography Cat also sees a love of nature, and a recognition of the human impact on the natural world in his work and shares one of his favourites with you here in celebration of Burns Night:
To a Mouse, by Robert Burns 1759-96 English Version
Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, that you may thieve;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!
You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Go oft awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
From this poem the phrase “the best laid schemes of mice and men” has become well known of course, not least because of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel.
Geography Cat wishes that seeing another species as a “fellow mortal” might become as popular, and that “man’s dominion” may cease to break “Nature’s social union”.
Many thanks to Jane, Petra, Heather and Rena for sending these featured postcards to Geography Cat.