Called “the People’s Poet,” Robert Burns for many signifies the Romantic ideal to write in the common man’s tongue and in the tradition of one’s environment. He uses Scots instead of English, folk lore instead of classical myth, and local instead of distant environments. His poems are set in bars, at festivals, and in the spaces that his readers as well as his subjects would naturally and familiarly exist. He practices an intentional act of subjectivity in focusing on himself, his home, and his language, which later Romantics would use to define the movement.
His poem, “To a Mouse,” is striking in it’s subject, since few poets before Burns would consider a field mouse to be a worthy subject of the highest form of art – poetry. Yet, Burns does not appear as simple in choosing to write a poem about plowing and turning up a mouse’s home, as he makes relevant and high brow references to King Lear, as well as raises important questions about man’s dominion of earth and his relationship with other of God’s creatures. Burn’s poem focuses centrally on his own subjectivity, his own emotions, and his own experience yet appeals to higher and more universal themes.