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Robert L. Peters

25 January 2009

Robbie Burns at 250… forever young.

robbie_burns_250.jpg

Scotland and beyond…

Today is Robbie Burns day, as well as the famous Scottish bard’s 250th birthday—around the world, Scots, honorary Scots, Scots-by-marriage and wannabe Scots are celebrating with banquets and toasting with single malts in honour of Scotland’s 18th-century versifier, a poet “who has mysteriously acquired a celebrity in death that vastly outshines the public reputations of other great poets.” Burns’ lyrical voice rings true across the centuries, and he has been lauded as the “authentic representation of the romantic spirit of the common man.”

Here’s one of my favorites of Robbie’s poems, a piece penned in 1785 (with a glossary to help decipher archaic terms in the poem here—just click on the underlined words):

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To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough

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!

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;

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 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.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,

Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!

Now thou’s turn’d 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 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!

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