Quote of the Day


Friday Poetry: Robert Burn's To a Mouse & my translation

I love this poem and long to share it with others, but the original language is a bit off-putting to some. Here is my version of it.

To a Mouse
On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, 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’ murd’ring pattle!

Little sleek scared and timid mouse,
How full of fear you are.
You don’t have to run away so hasty
Scolding me.
I would be loath to run and chase you
Or kill you with a paddle.

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’m very sorry that human power
Has broken our natural relationship.
And has created the justified fear
That makes you run
From me, your earthly companion
And fellow creature.

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,
And never miss ‘t!

I have no doubt that you steal food.
So what? Poor little guy, you have to live.
One bit of corn from many corn sheaves,
It’s not much.
I'm still blessed with what is left;
I’ll never miss what you took.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its 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 and keen!

Your little house is ruined.
Its silly walls the winds are strewing,
And there is nothing growing now, with which to build a new one.
No green second-growth.
And December winds are coming and they are
Both cold and sharp.

Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste,
An’ weary winter comin’ fast,
An cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel coulter passed
Out-through thy cell.

You saw the fields were bare and empty,
And that tiresome winter is coming soon.
Comfortably underneath the wind,
You planned to live;
Until crash! My cruel plow blade cut
Straight through your nest.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves and stibble
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreach cauld

Your little pile of leaves and dry grass
Took lots of nibbles for you to build.
Now you are turned out; in spite of all your work,
You are without house or home
To protect you from winter’s wet snow
And icy cold.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
And lea’s us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.

But Mousie, you are not yourself alone
In testifying that planning may be useless.
The best-made plans of mice and men
often go awry,
and leave us nothing but grief and pain,
instead of the joy that we expected.

Still thou art blest compared wi’ me!
The present only touchect thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear!
An’ forward though I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Still, you are blessed compared with me.
You live only in the present,
Whereas -- ouch -- I can look back
and remember the disappointments of my past,
And look to the future
And guess and fear.

Here is the coding if you want a button with a link to this week's round-up.


:: this post is part of the Friday Poetry roundup hosted by BIG A little a.


† Scott V.D.M. ev said...

According to the old adage, It is better to ask forgiveness than permission, I have copied your final translated stanza of Burns' To a Mouse for my own blog, "Random Provocations" - thesnarkyprophet.blogspot.com. I needed a modern translation of Burns in a post I am working on regarding Faith and I found yours most elegant, most elegant. Not to mention you have a beautifully Christian blog.

So. Since I am few days - maybe a week or so - from posting, if you wish to deny permission to use your translation I understand, just let me know. I would be happy to email the final piece before publishing if you wish. A warning in advance, given your teaching credentials and your eloquence, I am somewhat of a, um, blunt instrument in my writing - hence the Snarky Prophet handle. If you are familiar with the late Hunter S. Thompson, I tend to think of my writing style as a mix of Christian "Gonzo-lite" and Kurt Vonnegut with a tiny dash of Papa Hemingway and the personality of Elijah.

My paragraph style/structure is (I think I am burdening you with this information because of your credentials) appropriate to the medium of the web; it certainly wouldn't pass muster with the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style and most certainly not with my former high school and college English teachers.

"Random Provocations" is based on Hebrews 10:24. Provoke one another to love and good works.

I have given/will give the stanza full attribution to you complete with your copyright, all rights reserved, immediately following the translation.

Forgive me, I am being a bit backwards since I have not "gone to press" - I would be most honored if you would allow me permission to use your translation, ONCE, of Robert Burns'"To a Mouse" in a blog post tentatively entitled "Faith Is" for my non-commercial Christian blog "Random Provocations" (thesnarkyprophet.blogspot.com) and will give both you, Suzanne Chandler, and your blog (including your link) full copyrighted attribution.

Assuming permission, I announce blog posts via my Facebook account and twitter accounts (Scott Zielsdorf and snarkyprophet respectively.) And, as mentioned, I will be happy to give you pre-approval on the use in my piece, should you ask. "Random Provocations" has not exactly "caught fire" - I posted a piece on 3 October ("A Test") and have had approximately 40 hits in 36 hours. But! 4 of those were from the UK - I think I have some Anglican trolls. And amazingly, other posts have come from Russia, Germany, Serbia and Indonesia. Don't know anyone in those parts so...the Father must approve somewhat.

Thank you for your time, consideration and your blog. May our Father bless you for the comfort you provide through your blog (II Corinthians 1:3-5) and bless your household!

In His Service,
Scott Zielsdorf, aka The Snarky Prophet

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the compliments. That's fine to use my version as you have described.