Robert Burns' To a Mouse is worthy winner of vote on Scotland's favourite poem written in Scots – Scotsman comment

It will come as no surprise that a work by Robert Burns has been declared our favourite poem written in Scots.

As actor James Cosmo, who has recorded a new recital of the winner, To a Mouse, said it was “so important that our children still read Burns – and that language that is so rich and vibrant can’t be lost. It's way too important.” It was named the country's favourite Scots poem by VisitScotland after a survey of about 1,000 people.

Given To A Mouse was written in 1785, it is extraordinary that Burns’ words still resonate so strongly. One possible reason is that its theme – concern about humanity’s impact on the natural world – feels modern.

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Describing his dismay after ploughing through the nest of the titular mouse, Burns wrote: “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!”

Some afflicted by the Scottish “cultural cringe” might think his words speak only to a parochial audience. But Burns transcends borders.

The late American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou spoke of how, as a poor black girl, rendered mute after she was raped, “the only key I had which would open the door to the world for me was a book”. “I read everything. I fell in love with poetry. And amazingly in a small village in Arkansas, I met Robert Burns,” she said.

Burns’ attitudes to women are a stain on his character that cannot be ignored, but neither can the beauty and insights to be found in his poetry.

Robert Burns took seven out of the top ten spots in a poll of Scotland's favourite Scots poems

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