I lived in Aberdeen from 1990-1993, and as part of the school curriculum, we had to learn about Scottish history, specifically, Robert Burns. We celebrated Burns’ Night by eating haggis with neeps & tatties (turnips and mashed potatoes), and recited poetry.
It stuck in my mind, because I had to learn and recite Ode to a Mouse, supposedly written after he turned over a mouse nest while he was ploughing a field. It left me with a love of poetry, and a few years ago, while scouring the shelves of a second-hand bookshop, I found a copy of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Burns.
Ode to a Mouse
by Robert Burns
Wee, sleekit, cowran, 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,
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 winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,
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 turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou are 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!
Now, I live in Somerset. We don’t celebrate Burns’ Night, but I still have that book, I still love that poem, and when given the choice, I still enjoy eating haggis. My love of the country hasn’t dwindled either, and I regularly go back to visit family and see the sights. Three of my romance books have been set in Scotland, and my debut C.V. Leigh book is set in the Cairngorms.
To celebrate Robert Burns’ Day, One Night in Edinburgh is available for just 99c / 99p on Amazon.