How That Line Really Goes
“The best laid plans of mice and men . . .”
Actually, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley . . .”
Wonderful reading from the Scottish actress Eva Trayna. I’ve heard native speakers pronounce ‘agleye’ as ‘aglee’ and ‘aglay.’
The mouse here is referred to as a ‘beastie.’ It’s a convivial term. Some Scots refer to the Loch Ness Monster as “the wee beastie.”
When I spent a week in Scotland I wanted to ask the women to talk. Just talk. There is poetry in the sound of the Scottish voice, as there is poetry in the sound of creek water rushing over large and small stones.
You’ll need to listen several times to match up the speaker’s reading to the words of the poem. Time well spent.
For a cogent and well done explanation of the poem, scroll down to hear John Stacy’s short, five minute talk.
Ode To a Mouse
(On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785)
by Robert Burns (1759–1796)
Reas by Scottish actress, Eva Trayno
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin 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’ 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 turn’d 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 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!