Wee beasties

Wren fledgings scouring their new world outside the nest for the first time.

I am in awe of the fact that so many people sent me suggestions for a new name for this particular bit of my blog. Some said they preferred me to keep the Bug-a-day title – but I can’t. Those who don’t live in the UK probably wouldn’t understand, but the number of times I have heard the word “bugger” recently as a semi-offensive swear word has made the use of Bugger Day Bug-a-day untenable.

I almost ran with an adaptation of Rainey’s suggestion and called it “Wings and Stings and Things.” But it takes too long for me to type!

As it turns out, my search strayed “north of the border” into Scotland and I came upon a poem we studied in school oh-so-many-years ago by Robert Burns – who, in 1785, put pen to paper after he uprooted a mouse and its nest while he was ploughing. The full poem itself coins a phrase that many people may have heard before, and one that certainly influenced John Steinbeck:  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)

The poem is written in thick Scottish dialect, but I have added a link to the English “translation” if it helps. It is Burns’ outpouring of sadness, not only over the fact that he has destroyed the fieldmouse’s nest at a time of year (November) when the mouse is unlikely to be able to rebuild, but at the way humans seem to be under the delusion that they are separated from the rest of nature and are somehow superior to it.  Burns wrote this when he was only 26, but he had already lived a difficult life, and at a time when he was involved in several illicit affairs resulting in illegimate children. At the end of the poem, Burns confesses that he admires the mouse, because it lives only in the present, unlike himself, who constantly looks back on his past with sadness and looks to his future with fear.

I haven’t thought about this poem for many years, and I’m not sure what brought me back to it today – but I think it echoes the way I feel when I am wandering through the woods with a new view of nature and the complexity of a world we barely see and rarely take time out to appreciate.  Click here to listen to the poem read aloud.

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’ 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, 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 !

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin !

Its silly wa’s the win’s are strewin;

And 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 mony 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 a-gley,

An lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promised 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 !

Categories: Alice's world, Bug-a-day, Pictures, Poems | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Wee beasties

  1. cute little birds nice poem

  2. Great shot with beautiful color!

  3. I like it !! Wee Beasties will do very nicely 🙂 and aren’t those little wrens cute 🙂

    • The wrens were gorgeous. They nested in my chicken house on my allotment a couple of years ago, and I watched them from nest to egg to fledging.
      I hadn’t looked at these pictures in ages.

  4. excellent choice. Love Robbie Burns, love that poem and the sentiment behind it. When I hear that read by a Scotsman, it sends chills up my spine.

  5. Love the new name!

  6. Great poem, and I think Wee Beasties is absolutely perfect! It also opens the door to other small critters and not just bugs.

  7. Wee Beasties – I think it’s great! And the baby wrens – so sweet. We had wrens working really hard to buiild a nest in one of our nesting houses one year, and then they moved on. From that I learned that the male wren builds several nests, then the female chooses the one she wants. What some will do for love – or is it lust?

    • I didn’t know that about wrens. These ones set up shop in my chicken house, and every day I would sit on a bail of hay and watch them grow. Between that and your fir cone stories, I’m thinking of getting another allotment 🙂

  8. Something you said in your post really stuck with me today. Pointing out that the mouse lives in the present and not focused on the past or the future rather than many other things that could be highlighted in that poem, really got me thinking. I have been focused a lot lately on what I can do to move forward, and my answer always revolves around what can I do TODAY right NOW! And here you have added some more fuel to my fire. I always love visiting your blog. Have a wonderful day!

  9. Thanks for the compliment about the blog.
    That poem really touched me too, and we were discussing that very point in a group I attended this morning. It’s good to look forward – but I think many of us (such as ME) look too far ahead, then become overwhelmed with the prospect. The ideas then floated between the need to plan only “small steps” and the theory of “mindfulness” – where attention is focused on the present. I’m keen to look into this in particular.

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