Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wee creatures...

I defy anyone who has read Charlotte's Web to wantonly destroy a spider's home! As a consequence my house is covered in spiderwebs, inside and out. I blame much of my childhood reading for my reluctance to deal to small invaders. So it was that, when I read  Deb's lovely post quoting Robert Frost's poem The Empty Nest, I immediately thought of my father and the copy of Robbie Burn's poetry that survived the Second World War bombing of my grandparents' home in Clydebank, Glasgow. In particular I thought of the poem whose openings lines my dad would quote... [go to if you want an English translation]. I reread the poem and cried.

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, 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' murdering 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
An' fellow mortal!

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 win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

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.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.

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!

Still thou are blest, compared 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!

Robert Burns


  1. Oh dear - no more than an hour after I posted this, Tabby comes up the stairs guessed!!!

  2. Hooray! A new post from the pondering place! And what a great post it is. You must know I'm an E.B.White fan and have the same reluctance to kill a spider. Wonder why that doesn't carry over to roaches and mosquitos?
    Oh, so beautiful, Robert Burns's poetic gift to his upturned mouse, and your history of it with your father. I had to read the English to fully understand it but the Scottish is infinitely more musical and haunting. Tabby's timing, not so good :-)

  3. So . . . is that where "the best laid schemes of mice and men" came from? What fun to discover that bit of etymology!

  4. DKM, exactly what I thought too--"the best laid plans of mice and men"--who knew?!

    Ah, such a day for poems about wee things put out by us humans!gallumping

  5. And what a great word, gallumping---is it from Jabberwocky? (speaking of poetry :-)

  6. Welcome back Jane :) Seems all are happy to have discovered the origins of 'that' saying :o))<
    Sorry but most of our indoor spiders are white tails and I dispose of them ! And as cute as mice are (and rats I suppose) they never appear in singles .. and they can be very devastative .. we had to get electric cable replaced in the walls due to a chewing for example. Still a great poem and neat to know its background to you.

  7. Yay, bout time AJ!! :D

    The firewood I brought inside today was covered in baby spiders and bubby woodlice. I shook off as many as I could as felt very guilty :(
    AND I think there may be a mouse hiding behind the fireplace as R.Scruff was being silly and stalky around it the other day. I hate to think how many loose lizards are in here thanks to her. eek!

  8. Oooh, checked in here tonight and there were SEVEN comments (one mine of course). What a lovely 'welcome back' surprise :-) Thank you all.

    Yes, 'the best laid schemes...'. I love the way quotations work their way into the fabric of our lives so that we just use them - often unaware of their origin.

    Yes PG, my kitchen pipes were chewed through by rats. I have to say I don't extend my love of wee creatures to rats - not very consistent. I don't like their tails :-( But a wee field mousie - all bright eyes and quiver!! :-)

  9. I am fond of spiders too - it wasn't until Ned moved in and pointed out the variety of cobwebs they were cultivating that I realised this might not be a social norm!

    Norwich Terriers are ratters so we are very fortunate that we are largely unbothered by larger vermin (although we suspect there may be a mouse in the garage at the moment). The greatest challenge we have with small beasties is Arthur's tendency to hunt hedgehogs. He never wins - and at nearly 12 years old, I think he may never learn!

  10. Aha - a local pup mistook (?) my chooks for the rats/stoats/possums she is supposed to hunt. Two deaths, one injury. Arthur is only doing what he is programmed to do and good on him for trying!

  11. Must admit one more thing about spider webs in my house. May have as much to do with lazy housecleaning as spider respect :-)

  12. B----R re the chook loss ! :( Hard to believe that Niki was a cleaner with all that character hanging around :)

  13. Oooooh, careful PG - sailing close to the wind there...!!!