If his brother Gilbert is to be believed, Robert Burns composed his 1785 lyric poem “To a Mouse” in a field, with one hand still firmly gripping the plow. Gilbert’s story, though dubious, nonetheless captures something important about the great Scottish farmer–poet, whose reputation in large part rests upon his rustic and humane sensibility. Few of Burns’s poems do a better job of capturing this sensibility than “To a Mouse.” The speaker of this poem is a farmer who expresses remorse after accidentally destroying a mouse’s nest while plowing his field. He feels genuine compassion for the mouse’s difficult circumstances, particularly as harsh winter weather approaches. However, as the poem proceeds, it becomes increasingly clear that the speaker sees a specter of his own uncertain future in the mouse’s loss. The poem takes place in 1785, some fifty years into a transformative period known as the Scottish Agricultural Revolution. The revolution in farming practices led to the privatization of land, which led to higher rents, which in turn forced thousands of tenant farmers off their farms. Notably, Burns wrote the poem in the Scots dialect of English, using a unique stanza form known as the “Habbie.”