“To A Mouse” On turning her up in her nest with the plough, Nov 1785 Robert Burns Address to a mouse in Scots Mouse defined as female Uses diminuitives Plight of mouse mirrors his plight – not master of own life Stanza 1 Has just overturned the nest with the plough The mouse is running away He doesn’t want to kill “her” Stanza 2 “Nature’s social union” – the harmony within which nature exists “Man’s dominion” – ruins nature “me, thy poor, earth-born companion / An' fellow mortal!” – equating all living things as part of nature – all are governed by the laws of mortality Stanzas 3-6 Describes the plight of the mouse Steals – but what “she” steals would hardly be noticed Building nest for “bleak December” – now her house is in ruin, and there is nothing for her to build a new one with – everything is barren Stanza 7 Returns to the connection between the poet and the mouse The best-laid schemes o' mice an’ men Gang aft agley An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain For promis'd joy! Life has a way of surprising you – plans can fail, so even foresight is in vain. Stanza 8 Still thou art blest, compar'd 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
The mouse is lucky: only the present can hurt her – the poet has the past (painful memories) and the unknown future to fear (insecurity). Burns raises the mouse to man's level 1
Burns’ own experience is representative of all mankind's. Themes Respect Earth and Its Creatures respect for nature's creatures, especially the small, the defenseless, the downtrodden (or, in this case, the uprooted). Mouse represents common folk who are often tyrannized by the high and the mighty. Foolproof Plans Can Go Awry
“Songs of Innocence (1789) & Songs of Experience (1794)” - William Blake “Innocence & Experience” “two contrary states of the soul” In Songs, Blake opposes examples of innocence and experience from o Natural creation o History o Society Can an individual who is innocent (inexperienced) be truly good, or does the achievement of goodness require experience? But… Both perspectives are equally important and inseparable. Juxtaposes o Childhood (untainted, naturalistic world) o Adulthood (corruption and restraint) Speakers – disconnect poet from his narratives Songs of Innocence Depict o naivete of children o Hopes o Fears Deliver scathing criticism of society – e.g. “The Chimney Sweeper” The Lamb Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee Gave thee life & bid thee feed. By the stream & o’er the mead; 2
Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing wooly bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice! Little Lamb who made thee Dost thou know who made thee Little Lamb I’ll tell thee, Little Lamb I’ll tell thee! He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb: He is meek & he is mild, He became a little child: I a child & thou a lamb, We are called by his name. Little Lamb God bless thee. Little Lamb God bless thee. The Lamb Form: 2 stanzas, 5 rhyming couplets, plus repetition of last lines Song/chant-like - childlike, lamblike innocence Question: naive and profound – tapping into the nature of creation Jesus as The Lamb Traditional image: gentleness, meekness, peace Child = lamb = Jesus More positive aspects of Christianity… But… God made the lamb, Why did the innocent lamb have to be sacrificed? Cf. The ritual sacrifices of lambs in many of the world’s great religions The Tyger Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies. Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? 3
And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain, In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread...
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