“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gle…”


The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gle…”


For the non-Scottish among us, what Robbie Burns was saying is that regardless of planning and preparing, and despite the best of intentions, our plans “gang aft a-gle” (often go astray). What does this mean, when you’ve bravely battled your Depression – remembering to breathe, getting your exercise, proper diet, asking for help from your support group, getting enough rest etc. etc. etc. – and along comes the blackness and just swallows you whole, reducing you to a tearful mass of non-function?


It means you’re human.


It means you’re not going to win every time.


Acknowledging this is important. Because the last thing I want to do when sunk in a deep Depression is beat myself up for being depressed. This only exacerbates matters.


So, the next time you find yourself spiraling downward and you’re not able to head it off, try not to worry about the depression itself. Try not to blame yourself. Every warrior gets tired. So, take a break. Curl up with a book for an evening. Cry if you need too. Keep breathing. Because guess what? Every time you make it through a depressive episode and out the other side, every time you can hang in there until you can function again is a win.


And just because I know your appetite was whetted by that tantalizing bit o’ the Scottish bard above, here’s the entirety of the poem in it’s original form. Try reading it aloud in your best Scottish brogue:


To a Mouse




On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785


Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin 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’ waste,
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 art 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!



2 thoughts on ““The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gle…”

  1. Pingback: Context | ‘Of Mice and Men’ – Significance of the Title | Smart English Revision

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