To a Mouse


On the last page of the October issue of The Atlantic there is a lovely story by staff writer James Parker, Ode to Squirrels. Here is an excerpt as he talks to the squirrel as it evades his dog “You evade him always, corkscrewing around a tree trunk or dancing ninjalike along a fence. His reality is sharper than mine, and yours is sharper than his. This is why I appreciate you, squirrel—why I peer into trees and scan the rubbishy park for your pinched little unblinking face. I love the wildness with which you accompany my unwildness, the many spikes of terror and gratification that pierce your soul while I’m wondering if I left the car unlocked. Is it my world, or is it yours? Is this a quiet, gray street, my street, or the set of a feral opera? There you go, tree-leaping again, off on some desperate journey. The branches nod gravely as you race across them.”

Parker’s writing reminded me of the Scottish bard, Robert Burns and his poem To a Mouse, in which he describes the delicate balance between man and nature. Enjoy!

To a Mouse: On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785.
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,
          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 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!

To you O Lord,
creator of heaven and earth,
hear the prayers many offer
for the restoration of the delicate
harmony of humankind and the animal kingdom.
We confess that human greed has exploited
the earth’s resources and we have failed to
fulfill our responsibility of caretaker and steward
of all this richness.
Give to us imagination and vision,
energy and determination,
to make the hard choices that might help
save this one sacred planet earth.
Encourage those who for years
have worked tirelessly to persuade
governments and nations to do better.
Forgive our ravaging of the earth’s potential.
Forgive our selfishness and lack of creative
vision of what might become, not just for today
but for all our tomorrows.
Renew in us the desire to amend our ways,
and might we start today, not tomorrow.
Hear this our prayer. Amen.

One thought on “To a Mouse

  1. I am reminded now how every day should be an Earth Day, and I wonder if future generations will look back and recall with gratitude “the ways in which humanity finally realized how fragile our planet had become and worked collectively to save it”. We can always hope, but as in most things, the doing is the important part.

    As for mice, I rather like them, in the right places. Outside. We once witnessed our 2 labs run across a snow covered field and dive nose down in perfect tandem only to resurface, each with a field mouse in her mouth! Fortunately, Retrievers have soft mouths and dropped the poor creatures when I screamed to do so. The wonder of it all still amazes me.

    As for squirrels, I don’t care for the local band that frequents our yard. No longer clothed in lush, red fur, they are mere rats with slightly hairier tails. No offense meant to rats. They sharpen their teeth on the deck furniture, shred the screens, dig up potted plants, bury nuts and forget where they are, digging holes in the yard in an attempt to locate them. They also cause me to be airborne on the end of our dog’s leash. But when all is said and done, the poor things are no doubt in the condition they are in, because of us. And that just seems so wrong.

    Your post is a perfect reminder of what we’ve done, and what we need to do. It is also perfectly timed as I recall the many Blessings of the Animals which will be taking place in our communities in early October. Thanks, Edward.


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