Friday, May 4, 2007

A riff on...

...the title of my last post. It often feels true for me, being the mother of three fairly small children who are always coming down with some virus or other, that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Or, as Robert Burns actually wrote in his poem “To a Mouse”:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.
Which, like the accent of many a Scots relative of mine, is unintelligible. Until you get a translation, that is.

When I looked this poem up, just to make sure that the old adage actually existed somewhere, I found this site with a translation of the poem, which is attributed to a book by George Wilkie, entitled Understanding Robert Burns: Verse, Explanation and Glossary. It's so much nicer to read Burns's work with a convenient glossary opposite every stanza.

“To a Mouse” is actually quite a bittersweet poem, written “on turning her (the mouse) up in her nest, with the plough, November, 1785.

And there’s one really nice paragraph that needs no translation, where he apologizes to the mouse for mankind’s behavior:
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 never really posted last month for Poetry Month, so here it is, better late than never--which is another adage altogether (and attributed to John Heywood, who seems to have collected all the best “Proverbes” in the 15th century, including “Would ye both eat your cake and have your cake?” and "Better one byrde in hand than ten in the wood.")


Dewey said...

What an interesting post. And thank you so much for adding me to your blogroll!

Gentle Reader said...

dewey--thanks, and you're welcome--I'm glad I discovered your lovely blog!