Monday, March 7, 2011

The Best Made Plans of Mice and Men

This morning I had planned my day but it all changed as the rest of the house seemed to be running late. I had to make someone’s lunch, take one to work and the other to the bus stop.
The morning had started out all wrong for me and the saying ‘the best made plans of mice and men' went through my mind and I wondered where it came from.

I didn’t know it was from a poem but it certainly gave me a little education.

To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest with the Plough

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal! 

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't! 

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen! 

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell. 

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy! 

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!

Written in 1785 – by Robert Burns

The full meaning of the poem can be found here but you can see in the second to last verse the now common saying.

How many times have people glibly trotted out, “The best laid schemes” without realising that they were quoting from Burns? The sadness, the despair, the insight contained within this verse are truly remarkable and deeply moving.
no ‘thy lane = not alone;
gan aft agley = often go awry

Burns used this illustration to show that despite the best laid plans by the lady mouse, she could not have foreseen the total change to happen. It is about his ploughing a field and accidentally turning over and ruining the nest of a small field mouse at a time of year when it's impossible for the mouse to rebuild. In the poem Burns tries to reassure the frightened mouse that he meant no harm and likens the plight of the mouse to his own life of struggle. No matter how well you plan something, "stuff" happens. So relax and get over it, it isn't the end of the world.
It is a sad but hauntingly beautiful poem.

For me the phrase means that whether you are a man or a mouse your plans are subject to outside forces and will be subject to change and disruption. No matter how well you plan something, always expect the unexpected, in other words, just because you think you've done all you can for something to go right....something can still get messed up (always have a plan B).

But it may also well be that God has ordered your day to be different so be open to His leading and don’t be thrown by what He allows to cross your path.
And how do I know?
Because I had ideas of what I was going to do in the afternoon, after thinking of all the things I was going to get done in the morning, just for me, but it all changed with a phone call later that morning with visitors for tea. And that was far better.

Isaiah 55:8
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

All scripture is from - New International Version 1984, ©1984

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