The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men

Feb 14, 11 • Valentine's DayNo Comments

This phrase has come to my mind several times today.  On occasion, I start my day with great ambition.  Today’s plans were thwarted by my kindly husband when he closed the blinds and turned on the little space heater in our bedroom which lulled me into a drowsy state of sleep that is quite hard to wake oneself up from.  It was a Valentine’s gift of sorts – getting up at 5 am to make sure that Tom gets off to Seminary is my privilege…going back to bed was like my present to Scott since most mornings are NOT spent for any extended length of time in bed.  But not waking up until 8am was not in the plans for the day.

Getting a lot done in any one day is a manner of careful planning and executing said plans.  I know that planning is not enough.  I made cards a while ago; I had gathered sweet treats, but needed to make one more stop: See’s!  I will claim to my dying day that it is tradition and desire for freshness that takes me into that establishment at such a late date, but in reality it is the fact that I can’t hide the unmistakable chocolate scent of See’s from my chocoholic husband for more than a few hours…PLUS, the days preceding the holiday (Valentine’s, Father’s Day, birthday, Christmas or any other day where a special treat is deemed necessary) always seem to get away from me, so I arrive at it semi-unprepared.  And yes, there was a crazy long line, especially for those of us that wanted to do the hand-picking process!

Other things came into the mix…and then out…and then back in…and out…and in – it was hectic in a way that didn’t need to be hectic at all.  I do, after all, pride myself in being flexible – it certainly makes life much easier.  Dinner ingredients are gathered, cake balls started, treats bagged, cards written in…then comes back to my mind about the “best laid plans…”.  I have used that saying all my life, hearing it from my family, but I never knew where it came from.  Can I say once again that I love the Internet?  I typed the phrase in and this is what I found.  According to legend, Burns wrote this after he stumbled upon a nest, full of mice, one winter day.  (Scroll down for the English translation, although the Scottish dialect is so charming!) 

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

By Robert Burns, 1785

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!

Here is the English translation:

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

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!

The day is far from over.  There is still much to be done.  Dinner doesn’t always turn out wonderfully.  Maybe the chocolate for the cake balls won’t melt right. 

I had plans to make the treat bags look so much more wonderfully.  But the love that they were prepared with is there.  I cared enough to do the very best I could for the day.  Perhaps one can look forward, though we cannot see, and trust and have confidence that prospects will not so dreary be!  Oh, and Jacob, Christie and Matt?  Your treats will be on their way…hopefully tomorrow!  Happy Valentine’s Day anyway!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Comment on this Article

Home...where you can always find warm words on a cold day.

↓ More ↓