Burns in memory

Chan eil mòran lochd
‘s an crìdh a bhios a gabhail òran.

(There’s not much guile
in a heart that’s always singing songs.)

Robert BurnsIf that Gaelic proverb’s right, you’d have had to search hard to find guile in the heart of Robert Burns, born this day in 1759.

Burns loved songs from his childhood, and contributed two hundred of them — his own, and songs he collected — to the six-volume Scots Musical Museum.

In his thirties, he wrote some 100 songs for George Thomson’s Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. You might know one or two of those:

…not to mention his adaptation of Auld Lang Syne.

Here’s something for you to enjoy as you lift a glass to his memory. (He did write “freedom an’ whisky gang tegither.”)

First, an MP3: Is There for Honest Poverty (also known as A Man’s a Man, sung by the Old Blind Dogs).

Second, the text, to read while you listen. You can read it straight, below, or with a little explanation.

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 hodden grey, an a’ that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine –
A man’s a man for a’ that.

For a’ that, an 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 cuif 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 aboon his might –
Guid faith, he mauna 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 brithers be for a’ that.