‘To a Louse’, a poem written in the Habbie dialect, sees Robert Burns musing upon the louse that he spots crawling on a lady’s bonnet in church – the louse does not observe class distinctions and regards all human beings equally, as potential hosts. As Burns concludes, ‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!’ Such a power or ability would save us a lot of bother and ‘foolish notions’; but we cannot see ourselves as others see us. The one thing we cannot do is take the view of that louse.
To a Louse
Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place. Read the rest of this entry
‘Stars, I have seen them fall…’: this short eight-line poem by A. E. Housman (1859-1936) is untitled, so we’ve given its first line here. Although the stars seem to fall, they remain in the sky; although rain falls into the sea, the sea remains the same saltwater it has always been. Housman’s poem is about futility, and offers a less celebratory take on the stars in the night sky than the one we tend to get from much (especially Romantic) poetry.
Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault; Read the rest of this entry
As the title of this short Yeats poem makes clear, the great Irish poet W. B. Yeats offers the would-be lover some advice: don’t dive headlong into love or infatuation, for your beloved won’t thank you for it: never give all the heart. It’s best to keep a little passion back: ‘He that made this knows all the cost, / For he gave all his heart and lost.’
Never Give All the Heart
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss; Read the rest of this entry