Study Guide

To a Mouse Calling Card

By Robert Burns

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Calling Card

Romanticism before Romanticism

More than a decade before William Wordsworth wrote his famous Lyrical Ballads down in England, Robert Burns published his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect in Scotland in 1786—to great applause in both Scotland and in England (and eventually, all over the world). Wordsworth's later "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" defined the hallmarks of a new poetic and literary movement: poets should use the "real language of men" and should write about common, everyday subjects. Let's take a look at Burns' "To a Mouse," published a full twelve years before Wordsworth wrote his manifesto:

(1) It's written in the Scots dialect, which is the language spoken by common, everyday folks in Scotland, even today.
(2) It's written about a rodent, for Heaven's sake—can't get much more common or everyday than that, can you?

So that's Robert Burns for you: he was a Romanticist before Wordsworth had even made it cool. Nice work, Robbie.

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