To a Mouse
by Robert Burns
To a Mouse Dreams, Hopes, Plans Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain; (37-38)
Don't worry, Mouse (says the speaker), you're not alone. That's what we all want to hear, right? Doesn't misery love company? Well, the speaker assures the mouse that she is not alone in finding that plans can go awry even with all the advanced planning and foresight in the world.
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy! (39-42)
Yep, these are probably the most famous lines in the whole poem—and that's saying something. Remember all the work the speaker has done to make a connection between the mouse and himself, and between the mouse and all human beings? This is the pay-off: the speaker says that even the best plans, whether you're a mouse or a man, can get ruined, and leave you in tears when you expected joy. This, says the speaker, is a universal condition for any "fellow-mortal" born on earth. Well, if misery loves company, we're all in good company.
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear! (45-48)
The speaker envies the mouse, in a way, because the mouse only worries about his present condition. The speaker, on the other hand, has to fret about his past and about the uncertainty of the future. If you know that your plans can get screwed up no matter what you do, maybe it is better just to live in the moment, like a mouse.