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BEST LAID SCHEMES OF MICE
I would like to focus on those times
in our lives when even our best laid
schemes do go awry, and the universe
seems to leave us like the mouse in
Robert Burns’ Scots poem, composed
while he was still holding his plough
in 1785, tilted, To a Mouse, On Turning
Her Up In Her Nest With A Plough.
In truth, the final stanza seems to
suggest that the mouse, who lives in
the present, is blessed and in better
straights, even without a house, than
Burns, who must suffer with the fears
of an unknown future and the regrets
of a not so distant past. Let’s take a
moment to read this poem in Scots
dialect with needed translations offered,
that coined a famous phrase as well as
a John Steinbeck book title.
BURNS' ORIGINAL POEM
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' murdering pattle.
(bickerin’ brattle =scurry, run;
laith = loath; pattle = a small spade
for cleaning a plough)
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, whyles, 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.
(daimen = occasional;
icker = an ear of corn;
thrave = twenty four sheaves;
lave = remainder)
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 win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
(Big = build; foggage = moss;
baith = both)
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.
(cosie = comfortable; coulter = iron
cutter in front of a ploughshare)
That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.
(monie = many; thole = to endure;
dribble = drizzle; cranreuch = hoar-frost;
cauld = cold)
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!
(no ‘thy lane = not alone;
gan aft agley = often go awry)
Still thou are blest, compared 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!
I realize the Scots dialect requires
some patience, (by the way Burns
spoke and wrote in dialectless
English except for his poems and
lyrics), but as I prepared this post,
I became more attached to Burns
I began to understand why he was
so greatly loved in Scotland. In the
second stanza of the poem, Burns
apologizes to the mouse for the
behavior of mankind, going on to
equate his existence with that of
By the final verse, Burns reveals his
own despondency, having to exist
with the human load of the past,
and the fearful possibilities of the
future, a vulnerable Burns expresses
his true sentiments.
So when our - best laid schemes o’ Mice
and’ Men, gang aft agley,” – that is,
go awry - what might we do to rebalance
ourselves, to stablize. First, we must
stop our minds from beating us up
for the situation. Next, we are going
need to be grateful. Yes, I said it -
grateful, and as outlined below, then
we will be ready to find our poise and
regain our balance.
BOUNTY OF BLESSINGS
Today, focus your thoughts on all that
is positive, affirming, and true in your
life – the bounty of blessings you have
received and continue to receive
daily – the doors that open when needed –
the smile or kind word that arrives
at the perfect moment – the long embrace –
the laughter of those who you love and
who love you – the opportunity to reach
for the sky and shoot for the stars.
Today, affirm and give thanks for all
that surrounds you – that works and
comes through when needed – provides
balance and stability – lifts you up when
you are down or have stumbled - all that
enhances the living and the becoming –
give thanks for your courage, your stamina,
each fresh breath that powers you forward
towards your potential.
So today, replace your worry with a list
of all that is right and going well in your
life and be grateful.
With Love, G.