Robert Burns (like contemporaries Samuel Beckett & Seamus Heaney) is out there right now: feeling deeply; foreseeing; seeing deeply & acutely the transhistorical threads of nature, love, liberty, sorrow & sex which run through the human condition; sports rioting; sincerely outbursting; and acting directly on physical objects with his actual soul … all so’s we don’t have to. And of course … haggis!
All poets who boom to us down across the ages with their souls have to have a “thing” & Burns’s is not actually being a heaven-taught ploughman but a canny poser (&, you can’t but help get the vibe, not actually being an uncompromisingly vicious opponent of class privilege, but a canny poser). Beckett’s is being Death.
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 are blest, compared 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!
— “To a Mouse”
How does a beastie, touched only by the present, lacking the passwords to “prospects drear”, lay “schemes”? (It is miserable pedantry to suggest that the “best-laid schemes o’ mice” could be no schemes at all). Piaget’s schema could be worth a look, as could ye olde behaviouralist Edward C.Tolman’s concept of a “persistence until” quality of certain behaviours (cf. the best-laid cognitive maps in rats and men).