To a Louse
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Poem of the week: To a Louse
Lee, Ryan Leeds, Michael A. Lineback, Kent Linetsky, Barry L. Maher, P. Jack McCall Jr. McCallum, John S. Newson, E. Oliver, Caroline Oliver, Donald H. Overall, Jeffrey Palus, Charles J. Parmar, Simon Patten, Rose M. Pearce, Ed Pearce, Michael R.
To A Louse, Robert Burns
Pearson, Christine Pekar Jr. Pocklington Jr. Pokroy, Barry Poloz, Stephen S. Sanchez, Carlos Santora, Joseph C. Incidentally, the first manned flights in the British Isles were made in Sept by James Tytler, editor of the Encyplopaedia Britannica and a collaborator with Burns in the Scots Musical museum. In the Louse perhaps better than anywhere else, he shows his ability to direct an apparently casual, occasional poem to a didactic conclusion, this conclusion expressed in the simplest of qualities of a country proverb.
The opening with its exclamatory suddenness, carries us right into the situation: Ha! Your impudence protects you sairlie I canna say but ye strunt rarely Owre gauze and lace Tho' faith, I fear, ye dine but sparely On sic a place Not only do we see the louse crawling in the unconscious lady's bonnet but we see the poet himself watching it with exaggerated indignation.
A note of social satire creeps in as the poem continues. Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner Detested, shunn'd, by saunt an' sinner How daur ye set your fit upon her Sae fine a Lady! Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner On some poor body. Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight Below the fatt'rils, snug an' tight Na, faith ye yet! My sooth! I wad na been surpris'd to spy You on an auld wife's flannen toy Or aiblins some bit duddie boy On's wyliecoat But Miss's fine Lunardi!
How daur ye do't? The contrast between the vulgarity of the louse and the social pretensions of the lady on whose bonnet it is creeping produces ever greater mock outrage on the poet's part until he finally, with effective abruptness, drops the pose of the disturbed onlooker and turns to address the lady herself. As soon as she is named - by the simple country name 'Jenny' - she ceases to be a fine lady and becomes just a girl to whom the poet is addressing a friendly remark. The note of amusement is not dropped, but it has become kindly. O Jenny, dinna toss your head etc An' set your beauties a' abread Ye little ken what cursed speed The blastie's makin' Thae winks and finger-ends I dread Are notice takin.