To a Louse
Ha! Whare ye gaun, ye
crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects
you sairly,
I canna say but ye strut
Owre gauze and lace,
Tho' faith! I fear ye dine
but sparely
On sic a place.
Why, rodent, are you
in this woman’s hair? It
is not where you
usually live, and there
is nothing for you to
eat there.
The lady is of a higher
class than most
people and her class
emphasized personal
hygiene. So why
would a mouse be in
her hair?
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit
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.
You ugly, weird
wonder, shunned by
everyone, how dare
you be seen on this
lady? Leave her and
go bother someone
He’s telling the rodent
that he is unwanted
and that he should go
fadiddle someone
Swith! in some beggar's
hauffet squattle:
There you may creep, and s
prawl, and spr
Wi' ither kindred, jumping
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne'er
daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.
Get off! You should
only live in some
beggar’s squat.
There you can crawl
and creep with the
other vermin. No one
would bother you
You should stay
within your class.
Now haud you there!
ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rils, snug
an' tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no
be right,
Till ye've got on it --The vera tapmost,
tow'ring height
O' miss's bonnet.
Now stay there
where you are
hidden, comfortable
and warm; But wait
there’s still hope, but
not until you’ve
reached the top.
If you are unhappy
about where you are
then climb up the
social ladder.
My sooth! right bauld ye
set your nose ou
As plump an' grey as
onie grozet:
O for some rank,
mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie ye sic a hearty
dose o't,
Wad dress your
My god! You are so
bold to get plump
and grey from her! I
would kill you if I
He is talking about
moochers who take
from the rich to
benefit themselves
and climb the social
I wad na been surpris'd
to spy
You on an auld wife's
flainen toy:
Or aiblins some bit
duddie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss's fine Lunardi!
How daur ye do't.
I wouldn’t have been
surprised to see you on
an old woman’s cap, or
on a small ragged boy.
But being on this fine
woman! How dare you!
 He’s saying that it’s rare
for a louse to appear on
someone who is of a
high class. He would
expect it to be found on
a poor child or an elderly
women’s hat.
O Jenny, dinna toss your
An' set your beauties a'
You little ken what cursed
The blastie's makin!
Thae winks an' fingerends, I dread,
Are notice takin'!
Oh Jenny, don’t lose
your head and
squander your
beauties. You don’t
know how fast that
thing will kill you, and
you take no notice.
He’s saying that she
shouldn’t spend time
with him because he
is low class
O wad some Power the
giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers
see us!
It wad frae monie a
blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an'
gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!
If only the power of god had
given us the power to see
ourselves as others see us, it
would save us from many
mistakes. We would change
the way we dress, the way
we walk, and even what we
 If we really knew how we
looked, then we wouldn’t
act certain ways. We would
probably have more respect
for our peers outside of the
classes, or the classes
wouldn’t exist at all.
Uses slang from the time period it was
 Connotation: Ex- “you crawling
wonder?” the hidden meaning behind
this is that he is calling it a wonder when,
ironically the louse is a pest.
 Etymology: the Louse because in
today’s term we use the word lice.
› The tone of this poem is portrayed as humorous.
He starts out talking about the woman being a
lady of class as if he was on her side, but then
switches it up by chastising her about thinking
she’s so beautiful and great. He goes from
disapproval to almost encouragement to the
› The mood that the audience feels is that he is
being sarcastic by using irony when he speaks
about the louse.
Written in first person, explaining what
the louse is doing, to the audience but
not specifically to anyone in the poem.
He is telling a story.
 We are overhearing his thoughts on the
› As plump an' grey as onie grozet:
› He is comparing the Louse’s full tummy to a
plump goose berry
My sooth! right bold you set your nose
As plump and gray as any gooseberry:
You ugly, creeping, blasted wonder,
He uses imagery to describe the women
as well as the louse.
Robert Burns doesn’t use sound to
describe the louse. Instead, he chooses
to describe the louse and the women by
using physical descriptions and
To a louse is a romantic ballad.

File - Mrs. O`s Brit Lit Webpage