Tuesday, September 14, 2010


i thought about burns today because i read some passage in which TH denounced silent readers (and writers) as utilizing 1/3 of their resources on the effort, neglecting speech and hearing. and so i remembered the old man who taught a class on the romantics and the outrageous, perfect, blustering way he shouted out certain poems by burns, but this one was more of a quiet shout. all caps, small font.

(to a mouse, 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' murdering 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, 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.

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!

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 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.

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 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!

to me, this is all sadness and warmth and sweetness and chill.

scots english is no picnic but it must be endured a few times until you feel all right about it and then begin to love it and want to cry about panicked breasties and self-reproaching e'es. translating just kills it.


Haley said...

I love the Scot's english....written just how it would sound outloud. :)

B said...

it so does! takes you right to the writer's place and time.