The Scottish poet Robert Burns is celebrated every year on his birthday, January 25th. Burns Nights are generally filled with poetry reading, bagpiping, speechifying, haggis, and, naturally, the consumption of Scotch Whisky.

This particular poem, To Mouse, is one of Burns' more famous poems. It contains a line which is best known in translation: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley," usually translated as "The best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry." I don't know what's so hard to understand about the word "schemes" in this context, but there it is. John Steinbeck famously borrowed the phrase for the title of one of his best-known novels, Of Mice and Men.

This poem is addressed to a mouse after the speaker has plowed through a mouse's nest in December, and is distraught with sympathy for the now homeless beastie. Legend has it that Burns wrote it after doing that very thing. I'm not the most agriculturally minded person in the world, but I don't think there's much use in plowing a field in December, especially in a cold climate like Scotland. The poem is written in a Scots dialect, which I've done my best to replicate, though I'm sure I got some of it wrong. For that, my apologies. Just know that I've done it with affection.

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AuthorMark Turetsky