To a Mouse by Robert Burns | Summary and Analysis of To a Mouse

To A Mouse Analysis: Robert Burns was born in 1759 in Scotland. He was commonly known as the National Bard, The bard of Aryshire and Ploughman Poet. He is also famous as the national poet of Scotland. He is documented to be the pioneer writer of the romantic movement that has inspired future poets.

His well-known poems that are celebrated universally include To a Louse, A Man’s a Man for A’ that, The Battle of Sherramuir, Tam o’ Shanter, A Red. Red Rose, To a Mouse and Ae Fond Kiss. His Poem “Scots Wha Hae” served as the National anthem of Scotland unofficially.

Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.

“To a Mouse” is an eight-stanza poem written 1785 in the Scots language. The poem is a tale of regret and philosophy. The poet says he mistakenly destroys the home or nest of a mouse while ploughing the field that was supposed to be the mouse’s roof for the winter. The poem goes on to paint a picture of the nature of human life and non-human life.

Summary of To a Mouse

To a Mouse is a poem that sources claim to be written by Burns when he accidentally destroys the winter shelter of a mouse while ploughing the field. Some sources also claim that he was actually ploughing the field when he wrote the poem.

The poem begins with the poet saying that he understands how vital it is for the mouse to have a shelter or home to survive the winter. But is saddened by the fact that the winds came and destroyed that shelter. Nature destroyed the other form of nature.

The poem proceeds to tell how the mouse will again start building his home, unlike humans. Humans, when faced with destruction, shatter their souls. The poet compares the mouse and humans and how their situations are different yet similar.

The poet says that we are sometimes promised things even in our life, but then we never get it. This is just life and how it works. But due to this betrayal by nature, we fear looking ahead in the future.

Summary of To a Mouse

Detailed Analysis of To A Mouse

To A Mouse Poem Theme, To A Mouse Literary Devices

Stanza 1

Wee, sleekit, cowran, timorous 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!

In the first line, the poet describes the nature of a mouse by using the words wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous and beastie. The use of these words has described the physical nature of the mouse. The mouse is in panic and quickly wants to run away because its house has been destroyed by passing a plough and the winds. This leads the mouse to panic as it is a tiny creature.

The poet urges the mouse not to panic and try to run away because he is not going to chase after him. The poet is too lazy to chase after the little mouse and doesn’t feel the necessity to do so. Thus, he writes to urge the mouse to keep calm.

In further lines, the poet explains how he understands the mouse’s feelings and how men and mice are similar in the philosophy of life and its dreary.

To A Mouse Stanza 2 Analysis

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!

The speaker apologizes to the mouse and says that he is genuinely sorry that man’s dominion or man’s deed has destroyed nature’s social union. By nature’s social association, he means the mouse’s house that he made for his winter shelter.

It is justified for the mouse to behave as it is because humankind has always dominated the nature and its tiny miracles. Humans seldom consider the existence of small earthy creatures and their homes. Thus, it is acceptable for the mouse to have an ill opinion about humankind, and it is justified for it to be startled.

In the last lines, the poet says how the mouse is a poor small, earth-born but a companion to humans and the other mortal creatures.

Stanza 3

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou man live!

A daimen-icker in a thrave

’S a small request:

I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,

An’ never miss ’t!

The poet says that he is sure that the mouse might steal food due to the injustice by humanity. But, so what? The mouse is a poor little thing that needs to survive. It needs food, and thus it steals.

It doesn’t matter if you steal one ear out of twenty-four sheaves. It is a very small request by the mouse to steal a Damien-icker in a thrave. The poet says he will be blessed with whatever there is left after the mouse has fed himself.

Stanza 4

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!

It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewn!

An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,

O’ foggage green!

An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,

Baith snell an’ keen!

The mouse’s house is in ruins because of the scattering winds. The weak walls of the house are all destroyed. Nothing is left for the mouse to build a new one out of the green foliage.

There is no time left because it’s already December, and the winds are cold and piercing to the skin. The poet feels terrible for the little mouse and his winter shelter being gone to vanity.

Stanza 5

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.

The poet talks to the mouse and says that you found the field empty and bare as a waste, so you decided to build your cosy home here beneath the blast. The arrival of winter alarmed you to dwell in the ground and make a place for you to keep yourself warm.

But this cruel plough passed through your cell and destroyed it. It beat all your efforts, and most importantly, it destroyed your winter shelter.

Stanza 6

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stubble

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!

That small heap of leaves gathered from various places with immense effort has cost you many a weary nibble. Now with the scattering wind, you are all turned out and helpless without any home or holding.

The poet thinks how the mouse will now withhold the cold winter that is about to knock on the doors.

Detailed Analysis of To A Mouse

To A Mouse Stanza 7 Analysis

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!

In these lines, the poet analyses the similarities between mice and men and says that the mouse is not alone. Not only the mouse but also, we humans mistake with proving the future right. Just like the mouse had planned to spend a cosy winter in his underground shelter, even men plan to do and achieve things, but eventually, everything goes into vain.

The best laid schemes of both man and mice sometimes fail, and it leaves us with nothing but pain and troubles instead of the promised joy.

To A Mouse Stanza 8 Analysis

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But Och! I backward cast my eye,

On prospects drear!

An’ forward tho’ I canna see,

I guess an’ fear!

In these lines, the poet compares the fate of the mouse and humans. He says that the mouse is still fortunate to be only affected by the present and the immediate needs. Although the mouse’s house is shattered, the poet considers him luckier than human beings.

In the last four lines, the poet talks about how human being gets disappointed by life and its unfortunate treachery. The poet talks about himself and says that when he looks back on his past, he sees the prospects gone into vain and remembers everything that didn’t work out.

When the speaker looks forward or into the future, he cannot see anything and thus fears what is going to come. The speaker wants to say that past and future can always be scary as one is gone and the other is yet to come.

Through the poem, the speaker talks to a mouse after its house has been destroyed. The tone and style of the poem are not narrative but philosophical. The poet uses various themes to reflect the similarity between living creatures, howsoever small or large it is.

With this poem, he also wants to convey that humans and non-human creatures are supposed to co-exist. But as the superior creatures, humans neglect the small creatures and dominate over them. This dominion is leading to the broken bond between nature and survival.