The Best Laid Schemes



I planned on writing a blog post today that was overwhelming and heart-wrenching in intensity and grandeur.  Then I was hit with…


And thus could write nothing at all since my head is full of…stuff and I have not managed to roll off my sofa for days.

As Robert Burns put it so gracefully, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley (often go awry).

And since he did put it gracefully, I thought I would share the poem from whence the phrase originates – “To A Mouse”.  This was written by Mr. Burns when he overturned the nest of a field mouse while out plowing one day.  I believe I feel like that mouse.  Or perhaps just the leavings of the horse pulling the plow.

P.S. – since I’m assuming you understand Burns’ Scottish dialect about as well as I do, I’m sharing this poem in the standard English translation.


To A Mouse

by Robert Burns

(standard English translation)


Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December’s winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!




  1. Valerie Eichlin says

    Ooooh! Let’s go to Scotland – or maybe we can just imagine some of our favorite Scottsmen reading this poem – like Graham McTavish or Gerard Butler, or even Billy Connolly.
    Still…. I’d rather go to Scotland.

    Get better and don’t let this develop into the flu!

    • Betsy Horvath says

      @Valerie Eichlin: I agree! Going to Scotland is a great idea – then we can stop random people in the street and ask them to read the poem. LOL

      The cold hangs on, but it doesn’t seem to be the flu…so far…

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