To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough
Thread poster: Sebastian Witte

Sebastian Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:58
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
Jan 25, 2014

(on the occasion of Burns Night/Jan 25. For the love of all living things.)

Burns original

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!


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 thee startle
At me, thy 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 askew,
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!


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Václav Pinkava  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 19:58
Member (2013)
Czech to English
+ ...
How to lose the poetry Jan 25, 2014

Take an almost perfectly understandable Scots poem, and instead of adding a few footnotes for awkward words, convert it to standard English, and lose the poetry.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:58
Russian to English
+ ...
Great. Thank you. Jan 25, 2014

The original version is especially great.

[Edited at 2014-01-25 21:39 GMT]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:58
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
A parody I wrote a few years ago Jan 25, 2014

To Minnie Mouse (with apologies to Robert Burns)
(October 2006, after seeing a video clip of a staff
costume party at Disneyland, in which Minnie is
seen behaving improperly with Goofy)

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous Minnie,
Oh, what a throbbin’s ‘neath thy pinny!
Thou’d liefer start awa right hasty
Fra rampant Goofy,
Who has the gall to rin and chase thee,
Impatient youth he!

In this, the Mickey Mouse dominion,
Break not thy lawful marriage union,
An’ justify that ill opinion.
Thou should’st make no dent
In faith tae Mickey, thy companion,
An’ fellow-rodent!

I doubt na, whiles, thou’lt have it off
Wi’ Goofy, if he’s good enough,
(I doubt it though, he’s na sae tough
‘Gainst Mickey’s rage)
Ye maybe want a bit o’ rough,
But be yer age!

Oh, Minnie, art thou quite insane?
Thy lust for Goof will be in 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, compared wi’ him.
His future prospects must be grim,
For I detect a wrathful glim
In Mickey’s e’e.
An’ forward, tho’ the view be dim,
I’d no be he!


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Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:58
French to English
+ ...
Thank you Jan 29, 2014

... Sebastian, and thank you Jack - very good

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Stellarade
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:58
French to English
A version I wrote a while ago Jan 15, 2015

I didn't think the original was very understandable, so wrote my own version.

O tiny deft and dainty, frightened thing
What a panic you are in
No need to dart away so quick
And squeal and jabber so!
I'm not about to grab a stick
And chase and kill you, No!

How sorry I am that human greed
Lost sight of Nature's wider need
And to that bad opinion leads
That makes you fearful
Of me, who too this earth must feed
Your fellow-mortal!

I'm sure that sometimes you'll go thieving
So what? You have to live, poor thing
Just one ear from the tons we're sheaving?
It's a small request
I'll get a blessing from the rest
And notice nothing missing

And your tiny house is ruined now
The wind is blowing its thin walls down
And no green moss is left around
To build a new one
And cold December winds are coming
Sharp and strong

You saw the wheat had gone away
And cold, cold winter on its way
But here you thought that you could stay
Cosy, little mouse
Then Bam! the cruel blade today
Cut through your house

That little pile of leaves and stubble
Has cost you lots and lots of nibbles
Now you're turned out, for all your trouble
Your home is lost
No shelter from the storms and blizzards
And cold, hard frost

But, Mousie, you're not the only one
To find that foresight's work has gone:
The best-laid schemes of Mice and Men
Go oft awry
And leave us only grief and pain
In place of promised joy

Still, compared with me, you're lucky
It's only this moment you feel
But I can look back, and for me
There's nothing lovely
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess, and worry.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:58
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
To Stellarade Jan 16, 2015

Very good! The poetry hasn't been lost in translation!

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

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