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Today being Friday, I thought I'd share a poem. And the following news story having caught my eye, I thought I'd share Robert Burns's "To a Mouse". But I am getting ahead of myself. First, the news story, as reported at Orange:

A mouse has been given its freedom after it tackled a poisonous snake in a bid to save a fellow rodent at a zoo in China.

The two mice were served up as a live dinner for the snake at Hangzhou Zoo in Zhejiang province, eastern China.

Keeper Wen Shao said: "We always give the snakes live food and we put the two mice into the snake enclosure, but instead of trying to hide like they usually do one of the mice attacked the snake when it saw it trying to eat the other mouse.

"I have never seen anything like that before, usually the mice keep as far away from the snake as possible but this one caused a lot of damage.

"It was biting the snake on the head as the snake was trying to eat the first mouse."

He added that the mouse had deserved its freedom after putting up such a brave fight.

"In any case it didn't do the snake any good either, it was expensive and the mouse did a lot of damage by biting it on the head," he added.

Sadly the mouse did not succeed in its bid to free its pal. It died and was later eaten even if mighty mouse was no longer around to witness it.

Next, the poem, which I usually think of for one line in particular, only I think of it in a poor mashup of English and Scots, so it comes to me as "the best-laid plans of mice and men oft gang astray". The phrase in full English: "the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray" is an epigram, for those who recall the post about epigrams one Poetry Friday not long ago. But it's so much cooler in the original Burns poem, in which the rhyme scheme is completely apparent (AAABAB, with the B lines being quite short). So here on a summer's afternoon is Burns's thoughtful poem about planning and memory and our relation with our fellow creatures on this earth. I found it appropriate, given that Burns wished no harm on the wee beastie. And I've put the less whimsical/musical English behind the cut:

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

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!

To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough
by Robert Burns

Oh, tiny timorous forlorn beast,
Oh why the panic in your breast?
You need not dart away in haste
To some corn-rick
I'd never run and chase thee,
With murdering stick.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
And fellow mortal.

I do not doubt you have to thieve;
What then? Poor beastie you must live;
One ear of corn that's scarcely missed
Is small enough:
I'll share with you all this year's grist,
Without rebuff.

Thy wee bit housie too in ruin,
Its fragile walls the winds have strewn,
And you've nothing new to build a new one,
Of grasses green;
And bleak December winds ensuing,
Both cold and keen.

You saw the fields laid bare and waste,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cosy there beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash; the cruel ploughman crushed
Thy little cell.

Your wee bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Had cost thee many a weary nibble.
Now you're turned out for all thy trouble
Of house and home
To bear the winter's sleety drizzle,
And hoar frost cold.

But, mousie, thou art not alane,
In proving foresight may be in vain,
The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go oft astray,
And leave us naught but grief and pain,
To rend our day.

Still thou art blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee,
But, oh, I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear,
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.

For those of you wondering what on earth this poem sounds like, I've got just the thing: A lovely reading by David Sibbald, with photographs that tell a bit of the story.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 2nd, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
I love it. And oh my, that accent. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing that with us!
Aug. 2nd, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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