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Today’s Poetry Corner

Forgive today’s strip, if you would. It’s a pretty random poetry reference to Robert Burns….I know.

But I’ve always found it funny how, when you put the words “Scottish” and “poetry” together, it’s pretty much just Robbie Burns and….well, Robbie Burns.

Apparently, the Scots live by “The Highlander” credo of “There Can Be Only One”. Because outside of Burns, there are no other poets. Or, at least, none that spring to mind. You’re pretty much left with the two guys that wrote that song “I Would Walk 500 Miles”.

But I do secretly dig Robert Burns. And because I feel guilty for besmirching the name of the great Scottish nation, today I’ll share with you my favorite Burns poem, “To A Mouse”. He wrote it when he ploughed through a field mouse’s nest, and startled the little creature:

(Note: It reads a little tricky at first, until you assume the “Scottish poetry position”, which I just invented. Crouch forward ever-so-slightly, and stick an elbow out. You’ll find Scottish English much easier to read.)

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie,
O what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin’ brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’rin’ 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!
Its 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 promised 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!

(My favorite part? He rhymed “BEASTIE” with “BREASTIE”. Ahh, Scotland.)