25 January 2018 Susannah

Robert Burns – Scottish poet, born on 25 January 1759

Robert Burns quote by Susannah Fullerton

HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Robert Burns, born 25 January 1759

There are few poems I love as much as Robert Burns’s To a Mouse. I know many readers are put off his poetry because of the Scots dialect words, so I’ve provided a glossary to help explain them for you:

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
(sleek)
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
(hurrying scamper)
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
(loath to run)
Wi’ murd’ring 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, whiles, but thou may thieve;
(sometimes)
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
(the odd ear in 24 sheaves)
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
(what’s left)
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 winds 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.
Thy wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
(stubble)
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
(without house or holding)
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
(endure)
An’ cranreuch cauld!
(hoar-frost cold)
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
(alone)
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
(often go askew)
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d 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!

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

I am totally and completely in love with Robert Burns. And I’m not the only one. His birthday is celebrated around the world! And rightly so. Few poets have so moved and delighted their fellow men, touched so deeply the very core of what it means to be human, written on such a wonderful variety of topics, as has Burns. In his short life he gained worldwide fame, and is now the Scottish Bard.

I know that many readers who are not Scottish are put off Burns because of the Scottish dialect in his poems. That is a very transitory barrier to his works. Get a good glossary and look up unfamiliar words, but most of the time you can easily guess at their meaning. Get an audio recording of Scotsman John Cairney reading To a Mouse or Tam O’Shanter and you truly feel you have died and gone to heaven!

I have visited most of the places on the Burns Trail – his birthplace, the ruined church at Alloway which is the setting for Tam’s encounter with the witches, the Brig O’Doon which he must cross to escape the witches, several of Burns’ homes, and his grave in Dumfries. I think to see the simple box bed in a two room cottage in Alloway in which he was born in 1759, is one of the world’s most moving sights.

I will be celebrating the birth of one of my most beloved poets with a Burns supper – why don’t you do the same?

Robert Burns died at the young age of 37 on 21 July 1796.

Tell me your thoughts in the comment area below.

  Susannah Fullerton: Poem of the Month: January 2017 – ‘To a Mouse’

   The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns by Robert Burns

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Body image credit- Robert Burns By Alexander Nasmyth. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17632298

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