Why does the speaker apologize to the mouse in "To A Mouse"?

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The speaker of "To a Mouse" expresses his regret for having destroyed the mouse's winter shelter and having now given it cause to fear its fellow man.

This apology is certainly ironic as Robert Burns was the son of a tenant farmer, and farmers are rarely sympathetic to rodents and other animals who are destructive to crops or animal feed; in fact, these animals are usually considered vermin by farmers. On the other hand, Burns's humble beginnings also made him cognizant of the inequalities among men as the poor, like the mouse, are often victims of circumstances beyond their control.

In his poetry, Burns combines along with his Scottish fervor, a real sympathy for the underdog, sympathy that endeared him to his countrymen. In "To a Mouse," Burns addresses the helpless mouse, comparing himself with it:

Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, though I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

This sympathy with nature marks Robert Burns as a pre-Romantic and a man from humble beginnings who hopes for more equitable situations for his fellow countrymen.



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