10 April, 2009

Poem o' the Day

Robert Burns is one of the first poets I fell in love with. Most of what we were exposed to in school consisted of insipid love poems, deadly dull 19th Century prattle, and all of the other great classics that had all the personality of a beige wall. So an earthy Scot was a welcome relief.

Mr. Vail, one of the best English teachers evah, read this one aloud to us with a lopsided grin and a charmingly awful Scots accent. He even had the decency to translate some of the incomprehensible dialect. By the end, even the women among us found ourselves fired up with manly pride. I think a lot of it had to do with the "sticking it to the Man" theme contained within.

It's a poem with a political history, and still makes a rousing anthem today.
A Man's a Man For a' That

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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