story goes that Burns accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest while he was ploughing
at Mount Oliphant farm, near Alloway, where his father was the tenant, and
composed To a Mouse as a result. The mouse was presumably a
Harvest Mouse, in view of the reference to a nest.
Ayrshire town of Alloway, where Burns was born, is now somewhat in the
nature of an open-air museum devoted to the Scottish bard. There is
the cottage where he was born which is now the Burns Museum, and there is
the inevitable visitor centre, but also, scattered round the town, are
various references to his poems, especially Tam O’Shanter, but also
a bronze monument by Kenny Hunter (2010) to the eponymous mouse:
“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie”
the graves around the derelict church of the day is that of the poet’s
(photos by the webmaster)
by Robert Burns, 1785
sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
what a pannic's in thy breastie!
need na start awa sae hasty,
wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
truly sorry man's dominion,
broken nature's social union,
justifies that ill opinion,
makes thee startle
me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
daimen icker in a thrave
a sma' request;
get a blessin wi' the lave,
wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
silly wa's the win's are strewin!
naething, now, to big a new ane,
bleak December's winds ensuin,
snell an' keen!
saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
weary winter comin fast,
cozie here, beneath the blast,
thought to dwell-
crash! the cruel coulter past
thro' thy cell.
wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
cost thee mony a weary nibble!
thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
house or hald,
thole the winter's sleety dribble,
Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
proving foresight may be vain;
best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
present only toucheth thee:
Och! I backward cast my e'e.
forward, tho' I canna see,
guess an' fear!