Raising a Glass to an Honest Man on his 250th Birthday

With the odd conjunction of the State of the Union address and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, I can think of no finer way to honor the Scottish poet than to ponder his poem “A Man’s A Man for A’ That“:

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs 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 toil’s obscure and 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, an’ a’ that
Their tinsel show an’ a’ that
The honest man, though 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 and a’ that
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that

A prince can mak’ a belted knight
A marquise, duke, an’ a’ that
But an honest man’s aboon 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 that 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

(The Robert Burns World Federation helpfully provides an English translation.)

*raising a glass of a fine single malt whisky*

To a right honest man, Robert Burns!



As Scarecrow so painfully notes, many’s the man not noticed tonight in DC where the princes, dukes an’ a that all gather to hear Obama’s speech. But as both Scarecrow and Burns remind us, whether one is sitting on fine leather in the House chamber or sitting on a cold park bench in Lafayette Park across from the White House, a man’s a man for a’ that.

*sip* (My, but that’s a fine glass . . .)

To Robert, and to Scotch Drink!


Happy Birthday, Robert. ‘Tis a pity that more o’ the men (and women) in silk in DC haven’t taken your words to heart.

(photo h/t to Mykl Roventine)

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