Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

To A Louse

Scottish Poem By Robert Burns

To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church is a 1786 Scottish language poem by Robert Burns in his favourite meter, standard Habbie.

In this poem the narrator notices a lady in church, with a louse that is roving, unnoticed by her, around in her bonnet. The poet chastises the louse for not realising how important his host is, and then reflects that, to a louse, we are all equal prey, and that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we were to see ourselves through each other's eyes.

An alternative interpretation is that the poet is musing to himself how horrified and humbled the pious woman would be if she were aware she was harboring a common parasite in her hair.

There is also a Scottish country dance called Frae Many A Blunder Free Us which references words from the last verse.

Related Scottish Country Dances Gie Us The Gift


To A Louse By Robert Burns

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho', faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
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.

Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow'rin height
O' Miss' bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss' fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An' set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin:
Thae winks an' finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.

O wad some Power 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!


Gie Us The Gift Painting Image
Inscription Of The Temple Of Delphi
"Know Yourself, Youth Between Vice And Vertu" Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678), Oil On Canvas, c. 1613 - 1678


The Online Scots Dictionary Translate Scots To English.
Published in http://www.robertburns.org/works/97.shtml
Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original To A Louse article on Wikipedia.
Image Copyright Attributed to Jacob Jordaens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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