To a Mouse (Robert Burns)

To a Mouse

COMPLICATED works equally well with dialect. Take this well loved poem by Robert Burns, subtitled “On turning her up in her nest with the plough, November 1785”. One might argue that old Scottish dialect is incomprehensible enough to a modern Briton without the need for COMPLICATED, but that misses the point: COMPLICATED should not prevent understanding, merely dress in important-sounding language for maximum pomposity.

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, 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 and chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

Very small, smooth-coated, intimidated, non-aggressive specimen of the animal kingdom,
What considerable evidence of flight behavioural patterns you are exhibiting!
It is entirely unnecessary for you to attempt to leave with such immediacy,
Uttering your alarm calls!
I am not disposed to set off in pursuit,
With a blunt instrument with which to terminate your existence!

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 heartily apologise for the fact that the governance enforced by humankind,
Has irreparably damaged the state of peaceful co-existence of the natural world,
And fully merits the disquietude,
Which causes your alarm and despondency
Regarding myself, your indigent co-habitant of this planet,
And similarly ephemeral in this existence!

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!

Although I am under no misapprehension regarding your propensity to appropriate another’s property without asking prior permission;
What is the consequence? Resource-challenged creature, you are driven by a survival instinct!
An occasional ear of corn in two stooks of 12 sheaves each
Is a supplication of some moderation;
I will be provided with substantial remuneration for the remainder,
And not be cognisant of the shortfall!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid plans o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
A,’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

And yet, murine individual, you are not isolated
In demonstrating the potential impotence of prospicience;
The most judiciously prepared stratagems of rodents and human beings
Are inclined to disappoint in their outcome,
And provide a legacy of anguish and discomfiture
In place of anticipated eupathy!

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!

Nevertheless your fortunes considerably outweigh my own,
You are solely concerned with currently unfolding events,
But alas I am able to review my history of unfulfilled opportunities!
And although I am constrained by my incapability in bodement,
I make conjectures, about the outcome of which I am not sanguine!

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