Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
- James 4:15
“In 1937, John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men. The title came from the poem “To a Mouse,” written by Robert Burns in 1786. The line “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” was Steinbeck’s inspiration. It is said Burns composed his poem after finding a mouse nest overturned while plowing a field. Despite the mouse’s idea that its home was in a protected place, things didn’t go as planned. The same theme is played out for the characters in Steinbeck’s novel.”
- Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
I should hold this post until 25 January, Robert Burns’ birthday, but I forget such things.
Robert Burns’ poetry often had stories attached. I can attach a personal story to at least one, Ode to a Haggis. My wife and I had only started to go to the Scottish Highland Club of Augusta, Georgia, when I got a new job in Mississippi, and we moved. We had only attended one Burns Night Gala. Someone had brought a haggis from Scotland. Someone else read the poem in Burns original language, wielding the knife and mallet with gusto as she recited the poem. The haggis was smashed, and we all got a bite. My wife, usually adventurous, let me eat most of hers. We went home before they had started the Highlander’s version of square dancing. Even though I have two left feet, I wanted to make up for that error the next year, but it was not to be.
The quote from the devotion mentions Burns’ poem written about a poor mouse who lost its home.
My favorite Burns’ story, and Burns’ poem for that matter, is To a Louse. The most famous portion of the poem was quoted in my Army Officer Handbook as a warning to not let the power of your position go to your head.
Burns’ Original Words (as was written in the Army Officer’s Handbook):
some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
The modern English translation is (thanks to Wikipedia):
Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!
But what foolish notion?
Let’s look at the incident from before Robert Burns gets involved.
The flowers are in bloom, and one of the church goers, who goes to be seen, orders one of her servants to arise before daybreak and weave fresh flowers into her bonnet for church one Sunday morning. The servant picked the flowers in the dark and with half-open eyes weaved the flowers into a bonnet in a most glorious fashion. So glorious was the floral display that she totally blotted out a poor poet’s view of the preacher when she sat in front of him at the service.
Now from Robert Burns’ view, he was highly irritated at this woman who obviously came to church to show off. He wanted to make eye contact with the preacher. Who knows, his mind might start to wander, and he might lose the point of the preacher’s sermon.
His mind did wander. As he stewed, not liking the view of the back of a pretentious woman’s hat, he noticed a louse crawling out of one of the blossoms. As the louse munched at the treasures found in the woman’s bonnet, the woman was totally unaware.
It dawned on Burns that we all need to learn from this incident that if we could only see ourselves as others see us, we would be far better off. We might even avoid some embarrassing situation, perhaps a blunder or foolish notion.
Maybe this lesson is good for any day of the year, especially January where we celebrate Bobbie Burns’ Birthday Bash late in the month and start off the month, and year for that matter, singing one of his famous poems, Auld Lang Syne. The title translates as ‘old long since’, but means ‘times gone by’.
Of course, Allan Sherman had a different translation: “I know a man. His name is Lang, and he has a neon sign. Now, this old man is very old, so they called it Old Lang’s Sign.”
As we shake off 2018 and trudge our way into 2019, let us not worry about days gone by or what ‘ithers’ might think of us. Let us turn our focus to God and follow the plan God has for us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.