A Man’s a Man for ‘a That

Last night we made a rare weeknight trip to the mall for supper, a walk, and a trip through Barnes & Noble. While there, I picked up a book I’ve been wanting for several years, How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Both sides of my family are of Scottish descent, so I’ll admit I’ve got a bit of emotional investment in the book title. It reminded me of when I watched the ceremonies of the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The singing of “A Man’s a Man” by Robert Burns was a unifying and clearly patriotic and emotional moment for Scots. Understandably so. This morning I came across the video of that moment, and thought I’d share it here. Scottish or not, the song speaks a message we badly need to hear on  a regular basis: Honesty, faith, respect for our fellow man, pride of worth…all, far above rank or wealth, are to be valued.

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

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