‘To a Mouse’: A Poem by Robert Burns

The full title of Robert Burns’s ‘To a Mouse’ is, in fact, ‘To a Mouse, On Turning Her up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785’. That full title explains what the poem is about – and it was probably based on a real event, when Burns accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest while ploughing a field. The poem inspired the title of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men with its line, ‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley’ (that is, often go awry).

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, 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’ murd’ring pattle!

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