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To a Mouse
To a Mouse
by Robert Burns

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

Shmoopers, there's a reason so many of Robert Burns' poems have been set to music—they're rhythmic and lilting and delightfully melodic, even when they're just read out loud. The lilting rhythm of the words probably has to do with the Scottish dialect he uses. There's more of a natural rise and fall to sentences read in the Scots dialect than in most American accents. If you don't believe us, Shmoop on over to the "links" section to listen to a few Scottish readers read "To a Mouse" out loud for you. Don't worry, we'll be right here waiting.

Got it in your head? Good. The feminine rhymes at the end of each line (that would be rhymes of more than one syllable, like "beastie" and "breastie") add to the musicality of the poem. It's a poem that you can get stuck in your head, like a pop song. Seriously: once you get over your self-consciousness about reading the Scots out loud, you'll see what we mean. Read it out loud a few times, and try memorizing the first couple of lines—you'll be chanting it in your head for a week.

And that's proof, really, that this poem is all about sound. While it does deliver some awesomely famous lines ("The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men / Gang aft agley,"), we'd argue that one of the things that really makes this poem famous is Burns' decision to relate it in his native tongue. In that way, Burns made sure that this poem sounded true to the life he was describing, and that sound of the native Scots dialect is one of the calling cards of the poem. In writing it, Burns ensured that the sounds of his own language would be immortaliezd. Cool, huh?

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