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"To a Mouse" Analysis by Jason

About the Author

My name is Jason and I am currently in 7th grade. My hobbies are playing volleyball, going to the gym, and drawing.

"To a Mouse" Analysis

by Jason

Robert Burns, a philosophical farmer, shares his ideas on human life in his poem, To a Mouse. From ideas of the human connection to nature to the unpredictable future, Burn's writing remains relevant across centuries.

The mouse’s and human’s relationship is shown throughout the writing, especially in the second to last paragraph when the author writes, “But Mouse, you are not alone”(7). The author uses the word “you” instead of any other pronoun. Unless the relationship is personal, “an animal is referred to as "it" (WritersDigest). The writer chose this word to show familiarity, a bond between the human and the mouse, and similarity. When writing about how the mouse and man are similar, it states: “The best-laid schemes of mice and men Go oft awry, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!” One of the themes that is shared throughout the poem is that planning for the future may still lead to consequences. It is implied that the author is writing about the theme of life being unreadable, and that being flexible with life is the safest option.

The mouse and human’s relationship can also be seen in the last stanza, when the writing states, “Still you are blessed, compared with me!”(8). Although the human and mouse are in similar circumstances, the human envies the mouse. This is explained in the next lines, when it says, “The present only touches you: But oh! I backward cast my eye, On prospects dreary! And forward, though I cannot see, I guess and fear!” The difference between the mouse and the human is the mouse only has to worry about the present, whereas the human worries in the past, present and future. When the human looks at his past, he is reminded of dreary memories. And when he looks at his future, he is unable to predict it and can only “guess and fear.” This further emphasizes the author’s theme of life being unpredictable.

Throughout the poem, Burns shares his philosophical ideas with every stanza. He uses a mouse and a human’s relationship to symbolize his ideas on humans and their impact on the world. Although his poem was written hundreds of years ago, his ideas are able to stay relevant with the present and are still being read today.

To a Mouse

by Robert Burns

modern English translation by Michael R. Burch

Sleek, tiny, timorous, cowering beast,

Why’s such panic in your breast?

Why dash away, so quick, so rash,

In a frenzied flash

When I would be loath to run after you

With a murderous plowstaff!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion

Has broken Nature’s social union,

And justifies that bad opinion

Which makes you startle,

When I’m your poor, earth-bound companion

And fellow mortal!

I have no doubt you sometimes thieve;

What of it, friend? You too must live!

A random corn-ear in a shock's

A small behest; it-

‘ll give me a blessing to know such a loss;

I’ll never miss it!

Your tiny house lies in a ruin,

Its fragile walls wind-rent and strewn!

Now nothing’s left to construct you a new one

Of mosses green

Since bleak December’s winds, ensuing,

Blow fast and keen!

You saw your fields laid bare and waste

With weary winter closing fast,

And cozy here, beneath the blast,

You thought to dwell,

Till crash! The cruel iron ploughshare passed

Straight through your cell!

That flimsy heap of leaves and stubble

Had cost you many a weary nibble!

Now you’re turned out, for all your trouble,

Less house and hold,

To endure the winter’s icy dribble

And hoarfrosts cold!

But mouse-friend, you are not alone

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes of Mice and Men

Go oft awry,

And leave us only grief and pain,

For promised joy!

Still, friend, you’re blessed compared with me!

Only present dangers make you flee:

But, ouch!, behind me I can see

Grim prospects drear!

While forward-looking seers, we

Humans guess and fear!

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